Smarter Planet

The Smarter Planet Lab is an innovative collaboration between the BA/BSc (Hons) Digital Art and Technology course, i-DAT (the Digital Art and Technology research group) and information technology giant IBM.

The Smarter Planet Lab is used by Digital Art and Technology students and researchers to develop ideas around a networked culture where everyone and everything is connected. The Smarter Planet Lab is a test bed to explore how The Internet of Things is transforming our relationship with the world, building a more sustainable and stable planet. Originally installed in 213 Babbage Building in 2011 and relocated to 209 Roland Levinsky Building in 2017.

IBM’s concept of a Smarter Planet refers to the way that intelligence is being infused into the systems and processes that make the world work – into things no one would recognise as computers: cars, appliances, roadways, power grids, clothes, even natural systems such as agriculture and waterways. Trillions of digital devices, connected through the Internet, are producing a vast ocean of data. And all this information – from the flow of markets to the pulse of societies – can be turned into knowledge because we now have the computational power and advanced analytics to make sense of it. With this knowledge we can reduce costs, cut waste, and improve the efficiency, productivity and quality of everything from companies to cities.

The technology to build a smarter planet is here, but often instigating the use of these systems into industries that have been around for decades, even hundreds of years, would be complex and involve huge political and economical decisions. It is clear that we need new skills and fields of expertise, new ways of working and thinking. A smarter planet will require a profound shift in management and governance toward far more collaborative approaches. Find out more about the Smarter Planet concept.

The IBM Academic Initiative is a global programme that facilitates the collaboration between IBM and educators to teach students the information technology skills they need to be competitive and keep pace with changes in the workplace. It allows students open access to full versions of hundreds of IBM programmes and software, providing real world experience on industry-proven software. Find out more about the IBM Academic Initiative.

In addition, IBM are offering work placements to Digital Art & Technology students and graduates and offer a prize for work created using their software at the Graduation Ceremony. This unique and valuable partnership is an example of the University’s commitment to supporting new enterprise and dedication to giving students the best possible training to prepare them for the competitive life of the working world.

Smarter Planet Lab opening with Brian Innes Watson IoT Developer Advocate), Kevin Farrar (IBM Developer Outreach Leader), Paul Fryer (IBM Academic Initiative Leader) and our very own Nick Marshall (IBM Cloud Infrastructure/Director of NJAM Consultancy) whose placement at IBM Hursley research and development laboratory ignited the relationship.

IoT RoadMap:

Mike Phillips contributes to the Technology Strategy Board Internet of Things Road Mapping Workshop, IoT Special Interest Group and reports. “The Internet of Things (IoT) R&D roadmapping workshop (11-12/07/2012, Loughborough University) was an event co-organised by the Research Councils UK (RCUK) and the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) that brought together participants from both academia and industry, with the objective of mapping “the current research landscape relevant to the Internet of Things, the research and R&D challenges for research institutions and businesses in the Internet of Things space, and the future skills needed and challenges to enable the UK to lead internationally in delivering and realising the IoT capability”.” (local links here: Preparatory Studies Summary Report / Roadmap for Interdisciplinary research- Culture, Creative and Design / Roadmap for interdisciplinary research- Economics and Business / Roadmap for Interdisciplinary Research- Social Sciences / Roadmap for interdisciplinary Research- Technology.

The Internet of Props:

Gianni Corino’s PhD thesis explores the relatively new and fast developing field of investigation known as Internet of Things (IoT), this research starts by looking at the lack of critical and conceptual reflection on the area. With a main research question that challenges the underlying concepts of the IoT, the study develops a performative design framework to critique the field of investigation. The main corpus consists of: 1. speculative inquiry into the ontological dualisms of ‘objects’ and ‘things’ and the emerging social dimension of humans and non-humans; 2. the identification of an ontological-performative model based on the idea of Props; 3. the entanglement of theory and practice to construct a performative design framework, called the Internet of Props, which includes: an enabling platform (Smarter Planet Lab) and a set of design strategies (Transactional Props) to demonstrate and evaluate this model and framework; 4. a combined-evaluation conversational analysis methodology that assesses the performativity of the setting and the Props, through linguistic and socio-behavioural studies.


Corino, G., Phillips, M. 2016. Thingbook: The Society of All Things (Humans, Animals, Things and Data). DigitCult – Scientific Journal on Digital Cultures. Special Issue. (n.1/2016). In considering the origin of Things, it is quite conceivable that a designer, reflecting on the mutual affinities of organic and inorganic beings, on their morphological relations, their geographical distribution, cultural succession, social function and other such facts, might come to the conclusion that things had not been independently created, but had descended, like varieties, from other Things. Nevertheless, such a conclusion, even if well founded, would be unsatisfactory, until it could be shown how the innumerable Things, inhabiting this world have been modified, so as to acquire that perfection of structure and coadaptation which justly excites our imagination. In seeking out the future of the origin of Things the authors take a Beaglesque voyage to identify the social, cultural and technological forces which drive the emergence of a Thingbook – a place where all Things converge to define a new phylogenetic tree of networked relationships.

The Smarter Planet initiative is syncretic with i-DAT’s research ethos and methodologies that build on over twenty years of practice-based initiatives and have evolved from a series of ‘Operating Systems’:


Arch-OS represents an evolution in intelligent architecture, interactive art and ubiquitous computing. An ‘Operating System’ for contemporary architecture (Arch-OS, ‘software for buildings’) has been developed to manifest the life of a building and provide artists, engineers and scientists with a unique environment for developing transdisciplinary work and new public art.


Bio-OS offers subtle and complex combinations of biological (in its broadest sense) sensing technologies to build data models of a body over time. These data models are stored locally as bioids and collected within the users personal data-base building a biological footprint alongside their individual ecological footprint. The users Avatar can be used to reflect and distribute the biological model.


Eco-OS explores ecologies. Eco-OS further develops the sensor model embedded in the Arch-OS system through the manufacture and distribution of networked environmental sensor devices. Eco-OS provides a new networked architecture for internal and external environments. Networked and location aware data gathered from within an environment can be transmitted within the system or to the Eco-OS server for processing.