Investing in service innovation through living labs

Living Labs, which encourage co-design and co-creation with service users, are assisting services to be better designed and tailored to what clients want and need, write Anne Livingstone and Elizabeth Dodd.

This Living Lab in Odense, Denmark tests new ideas for health and hospital services.
This Living Lab in Odense, Denmark tests new ideas for health and hospital services.

Living Labs, which encourage co-design and co-creation with service users, are assisting services to be better designed and tailored to what clients want and need, write Anne Livingstone and Elizabeth Dodd.

Innovation and specifically open innovation ecosystems are concepts that are emerging in other industries and are now a reality in the development of social and community care in some countries.

Part of this innovation has been the introduction of the concept of a Living Lab. The team from Community Resourcing has been concentrating research and projects in this area for a number of years, particularly studying trends and opportunities for Australian community care services.

Living Labs were originally conceived as a research concept where user-centred open innovation processes and ecosystems were tested in defined areas in cities or regions. At the forefront is testing the translation of research into practice directly with the end users in a user-centred, innovation-directed environment.

There are often four main concepts at the centre of a Living Lab development and operation. Some of these activities are being realised in a few projects in Australia, but the exciting potential is to bring all the concepts together in a Living Lab environment to improve existing services and products or to create completely new tailor-made offerings.

Seniors are co-creating new technologies
Seniors are co-creating new technologies

These concepts are often used in defining and operating Living Labs:

  1. Co-creation where users of services can express their views and input into the creation of products
  2. Exploration where case examples or live environments are used to detail the realities of deployment and use
  3. Experimentation where live scenarios are used to test as well as collect data
  4. Evaluation where lessons and experiences as well as the data collected from the Living Lab are used to refine the service or development.

In some countries the concept of using Living Labs is replacing better known methods of getting user feedback such as annual surveys. It is viewed as a more robust, user-centered and meaningful way of gaining feedback from customers early.

As well as this, Living Labs are assisting services, from the outset, to be better designed and ensuring that any design issues are dealt with before release to the market. Researcher Per Kristensson from Karlstad University has also detailed the potential of Living Labs to “blur the conventional boundaries of innovation, cutting across the traditional value chain”.

Here are some case studies we have viewed in Europe this year. In these examples, our team has had the opportunity to explore how the concepts underpinning Living Labs have been used to ensure better community services and sustainability of service structures.

The first project was set up to encourage the co-design of a new health and hospital service in Odense, Denmark. This Living Lab project was demonstrating the return on investment when you bring in the users of services into a co-creation process early in the inception of projects to ensure design and functionality fit the purpose and the needs of people using the services.

We also observed the reinvention of a seniors centre in the Netherlands. This demonstrated how engaged groups of consumers can be instrumental in not only developing new services and products, but can be part of the development and commercialisation of new products. We saw how this was contributing to more sustainable service delivery as well as less reliance on government funding sources.

More recently Community Resourcing has been researching Living Labs throughout Asia. Examples have included a major new hospital in Singapore that has constructed a Living Lab for clients who are transitioning from hospital to community care. This service is about to be opened and is being used to test new technologies and refine new approaches to transitional care services.

A state-of-the art facility in a research institute in Singapore is taking smart home technologies to the next level. This research is part of an international project which is exploring healthy ageing underpinned by technology and innovation.

No longer are smart homes just static displays where individuals can visit and test equipment, rather new Living Lab environments are spaces where people can live and be immersed in the creation and co-development of technologies, and where research can be driven and evaluated. Reviewing Australian investment in static smart home displays is critical to ensure the relevance and outputs that result from these investments.

In Australia, we have been working with CSIRO over the past few years deploying the Smarter Safer Homes Research platform into a number of homes in a regional area. This is a great example of a Living Lab where clients, carers, service providers are providing input into co-creation, design and development of leading technologies.

Anne Livingstone is research and development lead and Elizabeth Dodd is project management lead at Community Resourcing. For more information, visit the Community Care Smart Assistive Technology Collaborative.

This article appears in the current edition of Community Care Review magazine. Look out for the forthcoming edition of Community Care Review for an update from the European Network of Living Labs. 

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Tags: anne-livingstone, assisitive-technology, co-design, living-lab,

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