Lancaster University

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University Awards Community Prize for Text Messages

06/24/2003 16:39:48

Dr Keith Cheverst and Dan Fitton of the Computing Department at Lancaster University have been awarded the University's Community prize for their work developing an ingenious system to help staff and residents at accommodation managed by Croftlands Trust to communicate effectively using SMS text messages.

Croftlands Trust is a local charity providing a range of mental health services in North Cumbria. The project used for this research provides a 10 bed 24hr residential hostel and, close by, a seven day a week supported housing service for 17 people with severe and enduring mental health problems

The team were primarily concerned with finding out about the daily routines of the carers and residents at the centre, and how new technologies could be integrated into these routines.

The system, called SPAM was developed in response to a need for staff and residents at the trust's two residences to be able to communicate simply and effectively. It enables staff and residents to send text messages which then appear on a touch-sensitive screen in the office. Messages can then be picked up and read on a dedicated display by any member of staff in a Croftland's office, avoiding common communication problems such as engaged phones, residents who do not like talking on the phone, and lost messages.

Once the message has been received in the office, staff are able to respond using the touch-sensitive screen as a keyboard. Response to the system has been very positive.

'SPAM' was conceived after extensive ethnographic research using an innovative method of enquiry called 'Cultural Probes', and was co-ordinated by Dr Mark Rouncefield of the Computing Department

The research forms part of the EPSRC funded 'Equator' and 'Dependability' Interdisciplinary Research Collaborations.

The team are now looking at developing the system further for the care trust, and have also had substantial interest in commercial applications of the system.

The community prizes, along with prizes for commercialisation and research were introduced this year to supplement the long-standing teaching prizes.

Other winners were:

Commercialisation prize

- Computing Team - Professor Doug Shepherd, Dr Andrew Scott, Dr Joe Finney, Dr Nicholas Race, Dr Chris Edwards, Dr Stefan Schmid, Dr Martin Dunmore, Mr Tim Chart, Professor David Hutchison, Mr John Gallagher for their work in recognition of their success in developing an implementation of the draft Internet Protocol version 6 that addressed a set of new problems posed by mobile devices, principally the need to maintain connectivity between networks.


- Mr David Goss, a researcher in Engineering Department, for his voluntary work for the Night-shelter


- Dr Hao Zhang, Environmental Science

- Dr Galin Tihanov, Department of European Languages and Cultures


- Ms Sally Watson, Management Development Division - CPD Work

- Dr Mark Shackleton, Accounting & Finance - Postgraduate teaching

- Dr Corinna Peniston-Bird, History - Undergraduate teaching

- Dr Andrew Folkard, Geography - Undergraduate teaching