SPHERE Public Advisory Group (PAG)

The SPHERE advisory Group has been set up to  explore questions raised by SPHERE with members of the general public. The group meets every two to three months to meet and talk with researchers about different elements of the project and offer their thoughts and advice.

Meeting One


After an introduction to SPHERE and a chance to give initial impressions, the group had a demonstration by the video team.


SPHERE recieved some really interesting feedback, including thoughts on privacy, cost and who will benefit the most from the system. 


Meeting Two

The group disucssions visited the following points:

  • Human interaction – this is vital to well being. Will sensors prevent human interaction, or can they be used to encourage it. Work with charities including RSVP, Age Uk, BOPF, Bristol Ageing Better and Health Trainers
  • Permission – How do get permission from people to suggest services or to work with them? Are there models that already exist? There are organisations who already work in this area who might be able to help e.g. health trainers
  • Can SPHERE be linked to models of self-reporting – for example those used by mental health organisations – so people’s perception of their wellbeing can be calibrated with the information from the sensors.
  • Intellectual wellbeing – This was a controversial area – are there blurred lines between suggestions to living in a more healthy way and recording or commenting on people’s intellectual tastes – Is it better for you to read than watch TV? Is this a morally dubious path/slippery slope? People already have books on prescription.
  • Recruitment – much harder to recruit healthy people – if people can see a direct benefit, they are more likely to get involved.
  • Recruitment – the group suggested a number of organisations in the city who it would be beneficial to contact in terms of recruitment.
  • Multiple occupancy in homes - Many people might have the system, but a partner would object. How to you work with families who have different opinions?
  • Legal issues – how do you judge when or when not to pass on information that could lead to harmful situations. Are there legal precedents?

Meeting Three

November saw the third and fourth meetings of the SPHERE advisory groups. The meetings took place in the SPHERE house, and raised many interesting an important points (summarised below).

Question or Point Raised by Public Advisory Group

Can the system be linked to automatic entry in emergencies? It would be really useful for people living by themselves if the front door could be automatically opened in an emergency situation – e.g. fall.

How accessible will the user interface be to older people, people with physical or learning disabilities?

Can the system be used as an advanced ‘baby listening’ system. Many people with babies already have a simple system.

The group felt it would be good to have a dedicated tablet computer for the user interface, not to have to have it on existing PC/tablet.

The group re-iterated that they would be very keen to have a choice in what they signed up for – e.g. if they were worried of falling, they’d not want their food intake measured. If they were interested in monitoring diet and exercise, they wouldn’t want information about their mental health shared.

Energy Transfer – the preferred option was to have energy transferred from a chair to a bracelet.

No one in the group could see wearing a special item of clothing working for them.

One group member suggested the possibility of using the toilet as the place energy is transferred from – as everyone uses it.

There was a question of how the wearable lets you know if it is running out of charge, and can you ‘top it up’ directly from a plug or else-where? How long between charges (many people are out of the house for 10+ hours a day) – can it also be charged at work etc?

Can bed sheets be used to charge? Could it be charged in the car?

How safe is it? Would it affect pacemakers? Or be damaged by electric blankets? If energy was transmitted from a chair, for example, what would happen if a guest sat in it? Could it only be activated for the desired user? Would it interfere with credit cards or mobile phones? It would need to be flame retardant.

General Question – Could the environmental sensors sense radon gas and/or carbon monoxide?

Could the data be used to research how the quality of someone’s home (damp, temperature) could affect their health?

What is the working range of the wearable?  Would it work in the garage/garden where many incidents take place?

Recording ‘ground truth’ – the group talked about advantages and disadvantages of the different methods – video is probably most effective, but very time consuming. If people would make a comprehensive diary, this would be the groups preferred method.

People wanted options regarding how the wearable device looks and how it's worn – e.g. a bracelet OR a pendant OR something else. Again, Individualisation/Personalisation is very important.