Research group at imec & Vrije Universiteit Brussel

Bram Lievens


Personal Description

My key research activities are dedicated to smart cities and internet-of-things. More specifically, I look at the interplay between technology and society. I study how this influences users interaction with the city and their experience with it. Exploring new methods and tools to investigate this relationship is something I enjoy. Today, various types of new technology enable me to interact with citizens in their natural setting, as they are having their experience. I apply this in various research projects, especially in my work within imec’s City of Things. This is a large-scale IoT Living Lab in Antwerp. There, I perform real-life contextual inquiry, by means of tools such as experience sampling techniques and the use of proxy technologies (i.e. existing technologies that resemble the innovation under development).

I hold a bachelor degree in social and cultural work and a master degree in communication science. After a brief period of working for various local authorities, I joined SMIT in 2002. Ever since, I have been active in numerous national and European projects within the domain of user-centered design and smart cities.

Key Publications

  • Configuring Living Labs
    Pierson, J., & Lievens, B. (2005). Configuring Living Labs For A “Thick” Understanding Of Innovation. In Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference Proceedings (Vol. 2005, pp. 114–127). Redmond, WA, USA.
    Open publication

  • The Use of Live-Prototypes as Proxy Technology in Smart City Living Lab Pilots
    With the rise of Internet-of-Things (IoT) a new wave of so-called smart technologies and related services have been introduced. When applied within an urban context, they tend to be ubiquitous, enabling a real-time interaction between the city, its environment and users, leading to a new set of human-computer interactions and user experiences. For the design of such technologies and services, researchers are challenged in finding effective methodologies that take into account this complex context of use. Especially in the very early phases of technology design, it can be rather complex to capture accurate user insights and requirements. In this paper, we investigate whether implementing a “live-prototyping tool” can respond to this need. By combining elements from both lo-fi prototyping as well as Proxy Technology Assessment (PTA), we investigated the benefits of an IoT-enabled proxy device as “live-prototyping tool”, that can be used during the first stages of development and deployed in the real-life environment of end-users. Results show that the use of such tool enables (HCI) researchers to collect more detailed data, interact more accurately and by so provide quick wins for the design and development process.
    Open publication