IoT Expo at IoT week 2019 Aarhus

We participated at the IoT expo at Ridehuset during IoT week 2019 in Aarhus. [ ]

Mindreading is all the rage

We brought our Muse headbands to the expo as a way to start a conversation about how quickly we generate data, and just how incredibly much our brain creates in no time. [ ]

The headbands was originally created to help with meditation training. They measure different brainwaves, while providing audio feedback through an app, indicating if the right meditative state of mind is achieved.

In reality they are relatively cheap EEG devices, and as such scientist have been using them to conduct experiments. This has seen them developing an app that can plot the data coming from the muse headband, using different graphs and raw numbers. This is the app we use to show, just how quickly we generate data with our mind. While the meditation app is used to lure people in and listen to us talk endlessly about data.

Meditation 9 to 5

The expo was visited by a great number of school classes from the greater Aarhus area. Who were all very interested in trying out meditation while getting their mind read. In actuality the interest was so great that we had long lines in front of our booth.

We had a lot of interesting conversations about relaxation, point scoring in the muse app and how relaxation can be more than an activity.

Patiently awaiting their turn to try the headbands in the meditation chairs

While a lot of our visitors were a bit to young for the entirety of our data agenda, we had a lot of interesting conversations with their teachers, and other participants at the expo.

And while the age of some of our participants might not have been entirely compatible with a hard data conversation. We had a lot of interesting conversations about relaxation, point scoring in the muse app and how relaxation can be more than an activity. Relaxation might be a state of mind, and not just watching youtube videos on the couch.

The muse headband and the data the children are immediately presented with (audio cues), allows us to somewhat share a mindstate. Having a common starting point, or at least, a common reference. We can discuss relaxation and what it is for us, to a much greater degree. Something that might be very needed in this time of constant input.

Concrete Oasis – The Sound of Aarhus

Just before the school summer holidays a school class, a 6th-grade, visited Dokk1 to participate in the test of our Micro:bits and the daughterboard extensions developed by the Alexandra Institute. These extensions have transformed the Micro:bits into tools which can measure sound level.


Our goal for the class was to teach them about data – what data is, what it looks like in digitised form, what we can use data for and, in this project, how we can use it to find the sound of Aarhus and eventually maybe find a nice place to hang out – a concrete oasis.

Due to a delay of the development of the extensions we had to change the set-up for our school class. Instead of two visits at Dokk1 with a week in between in which the kids would gather data by measuring sound levels at different locations, we had to scale down the test to a one-day visit.


When the kids and their teacher showed up, they were very much looking forward to taking part in this test. By starting the day with a talk about data – how we use and produce data every day – the topic of the day was soon clear.


This led on to a relevant and interesting talk with the class and afterwards we went on to producing our own data and to seeing how differently we all interpret the same data depending on focus. The kids showed their different interpretations by building data sculptures.


Now they were ready to continue with the Micro:bit set-up. We explained how to use the Micro:bits and then they chose a location where they would measure the sound level.


On returning they could see the sound level, a small blue dot with a number between 1 and 100 depending on the level.


Unfortunately, the class had hoped for a bit more, so this clearly shows us that it is important to spike up the project with more information on the map. The time of the day, date, description of the place and tags are all important features which could make the project more understandable and more interesting to the kids.

However, this test was very valuable to us since it gave us data and ideas on how to get on with our project.

Micro:bits & daughterboard for realtime sounddata

We have received our micro:bit daughterboards from the Alexandra institute (

The daugtherboards enable us to send realtime sounddata to a website developed by Alexandra ( They will be used in conjunction with one of our workshops for schools, called concrete oases. The workshop will be expanded upon in our upcoming dataworkshop cookbook.

Protective box for the daughterboard

The daughterboards connect with a Micro:bit, that can be blockprogrammed with codeblocks created by Alexandra, to act as a controller for the daugtherboard. This allows us to introduce the students to both programming and large datasets.

We are very excited to test out the boards and implement them in our workshops this fall (2019).

1st concept daugtherboard

Datajournalist for a day

Teaching young people about data by making datastories

In our ongoing effort to test and find the best way to teach people about data. We decided to teach people, by having them come behind the scenes and be the ones who made a datastory. Not just the ones reading and critiquing it.

Format and setup

The workshop was made with schoolchildren in mind, both due to the length and content. As such the workshop was offered in our school catalogue, where teachers have the option of reserving the workshop for their class.

The workshop is 4 hours long, from 10 to 14 o’clock, with a short break and a larger dinner break in between. The longer format allows us to expand upon the design proces and allow the students to go through a sped up design phase, before getting to grips with the data.


We begin by introducing the students to data as a larger concept, datastories, and how datastories are used to make sense of large datasets.

After we have explained data and datastories in a larger context, we give them the following infographic from the danish statistical bureau, with data of an average 15 year old boy/girl. We use this particular infographic, as our experience show that data is a lot more interesting if it is quite closely related to the participant.

The students are asked to ponder the infographic, trying to find aspects of it that they would like to expand upon. They are given ten minutes to find ten different aspects they find interesting and would like to expand upon. This is to force them to think broadly about the data blocks in the infographic.

Research and Prototyping

After they have found their focus, the student are asked to research the data behind that particular part of the infographic, and create their won expanded stories.

Then the stories are visually prototyped on paper, with input from the workshop runners.

Final product

After the prototype have been discussed and approved, it is recreated, with the discussed modification, in canva (an online tool for easily creating infographics

For more details, the workshop and how to recreate it, will be detailed in our upcoming cookbook.

Data Detox Kit

If you do not already know about the Data Detox Kit presented by Tactical Tech and Mozilla you should check it out. The Data Detox Kit is a insightful and also entertaining way to clean up your data mess – to understand the digital lugage we all leave behind without necessarily understanding how it will impact our future life and decisions. You will clear up your location footprints and degooglise your life. The Data Detox Kit has been translated into lots of languages and hopefully later this year into Danish as well.

Tactical Tech is an international NGO that engages with citizens and civil-society organisations to explore the impacts of technology on society. Tactical Tech. Besides the Data Detox Kit they have been involved in many other projects informing the genral public about the possibilities and pitfalls of technological progress.

They also have lots of concrete ideas and activities to use in a classroom or workshop setting, so if this is something you are considering to do, their website is a great place to start.

Infographics for everyone

We held our first workshop teaching citizens how to make their own infographics.

The aim of the workshop was highlighting how the participants could use readily available online tools for creating their own graphically infused stories.

Instead of focusing on the data aspect of the project, we tried in this instance to engage the citizens by helping them create the story they wanted to tell. Be it a CV, an invitation, or maybe a presentation for work visualizing, on a map, where the company’s assets were.

By helping the participants work towards an actual product, and teaching them tools and useful tricks to get there, the proces of creating (data)stories becomes concrete. Our thesis then, is that a future incorporation of data, to corroborate and strengthen your story, is more likely when the proces of creating a data story is less nebulous.

Workshop format

The workshop consisted of three major parts. First an introduction to using data in stories. Then a design- and tool introduction after which we started the work phase.

In the first part we introduce the concept of infographics and data stories; how they are used, different examples, and why they make sense. When data is everywhere making sense of it, quickly becomes a problem. Infographics and data stories are sorely needed if we want to tell or inform about subjects with complexity. We keep this introduction light and short.

after a brief design and tool introduction, we encouraged the participants to start working, relying on the usability of the tool to do most of the heavy lifting.

After our introduction to infographics and data stories, we start up with the design part. This is not a comprehensive design course in any way, but getting around basic concepts used in graphical design is helpful for the participants, in creating good looking infographics. We focus on concepts like complimentary colors and the difference between raster/bitmap and vector formats. Which tools to use, and so on. So, after a brief design and tool introduction, we encourage participants to start working, relying on the usability of the tool to do most of the heavy lifting.

The Tools

We used canva to make the infographics. Canva is a browser-based infographic tool. It is one of many options available online. We mostly chose canva due to the fact, that the non-paid option allows you to upload and output a product, almost hassle-free. There are some restrictions on output formats, but nothing really problematic. Our experience from the workshop is that the tool is easy to use – both for the tech literate and the ones less so. There are many other options out there that provides the same sort of service, and we of course encourage you to find the one that suits your needs the best.

  • Color.adobe is a tool for choosing complementary, monochromatic, analogous and so on colors. Great for avoiding the less fortunate color combinations.
  • Flaticon is one of many sites that offers free icons in different vector formats.
  • Pexel offers free high quality stock photos. Being free and high quality the selection is more limited than you will find at a paid site or a free one with a lower barrier for entry. It is a good starting point though, and will help the participants create more attractive infographics.
  • Vectr & Pixlr browser-based vector and image editors. Great for quick changes.


The workshop went exceedingly well. The participants quickly got to work on all manner of projects. The usability and ease of use in canva allowed almost everyone to get started right away with minimal help from the instructor.

All participants indicated during feedback, that the short introductory parts were very helpful in establishing and understanding the subject. The short timeframe ensured that it did not get too theoretical, while still being informative.

Letting the participants start working on their project in canva quickly was uniformly enjoyed. This is likely due to the fact that canva, and other browser-based software, is often very easy to get into for most people.

All in all the workshop went well, and can be easily adapted to other libraries.

Powerpoint used in workshop here (in Danish)

Teens Measuring Brainwaves

Data literacy through self tracking

Discovering that teenagers may not be inclined to immerse themselves into data work, we will this Spring be testing new concepts and ideas, to investigate how we might grab their attention.

One topic that seems to transcend age and gender is the universal subject “me”. A deeper understanding of oneself is something most people long for, and is probably part of the reason self-tracking has become such an integrated part of our everyday lives.

Teens are furthermore known for being notoriously self-absorbed, and with that in mind, we wanted to do workshops for schoolchildren using the MUSE headbands. By letting them measure their own brainwaves, we were hoping to titillate their curiosity, and motivate them to working with visualizing the data afterwards.

The MUSE headbands are very easy to set up, and we use the app Muse Monitor to track and record the brainwaves. The recordings can be directly added to a Dropbox in .csv format.

The next step is to import the data into a spreadsheet (e.g. Microsoft Excel), and without detailed knowledge of data cleaning or analysis, convert it into different charts and diagrams.

We were aware, though, that the teens needed precise instructions, in order to perform the tasks in the workshop. Still, we were surprised by how much instruction they actually needed.

They were as expected very interested in the MUSE headbands, actually so excited that they created way too many and inaccurate data sets, instead of following our instructions and focusing on getting two-three useful data sets.

Another challenge was the openness in interpreting brainwaves. The teens were expecting to get a straight answer – e.g. if my brainwaves look like this, it is because I’m [smart or creative or easygoing or…] and working with brainwaves (and especially as your only source of input) there is no clear 1-to-1 mapping. So, they were a little disappointed by the results.

“They were scientists finding out the best ways to get teenagers to be sleepy (and get to bed at an reasonable hour).”

On the positive side, they were engaged and all of them eager to see their own brainwaves. They were also convinced by the frame of the workshop: They were scientists finding out the best ways to get teenagers to be sleepy (and get to bed at an reasonable hour). Though the concept of a study design was both difficult and new to them.

At this moment we are adjusting the scope and structure of the workshop. We need even more detailed instructions and we need to scale down a little to spend more time on the essentials:

  • Study design: What does the angle of our research mean in terms of the data we collect?
  • Data gathering: Why is it crucial we follow our initial study design instead of just going with the flow and creating lots of excess data?
  • Data visualization: What happens when we clean and analyse data, so it can presented in a visually appealing way?
  • Datastory: How do we create a context or narrative around our data, to make it compelling?

When we are done adjusting, we will be doing another set of workshops for schools during Fall 2019. We will later this spring also be testing the MUSE headbands with the library users, and see if they will be equally curious to see their own brainwaves.

Strengthening Data Competencies through an Interactive Installation

We are currently working on the concept design for an installation in collaboration with the Alexandra Institute (DK). The installation gives citizens of Aarhus new insights on local areas in Aarhus. Furthermore, children from the Aarhus area are given the opportunity to strengthen their data competencies through a combination of:

  • micro:bit programming
  • data harvesting from sound sensors
  • data stories through interactive data visualization.

At the moment we imagine the following scenario – but this may change as we uncover new territories:

The installation is an interactive map of the sound of Aarhus. The map changes with the sound and pulse of the city. Imagine standing in front of a traditional map of your neighbourhood (eg. Google Map). Instead of topology or infrastructure the map is shaped by data from sound sensors in your area.

This provides the user with new possible insights on the area; where do I find rest and peace in my neighbourhood? And when? What other areas with Aarhus provide similar possibilities for contemplation – but at other times? Why is that? This allows for uncovering new perspectives of neighbouring areas.

We’ve chosen the working title “Asphalt Oasis” for the installation:

The data for the installation is partly based upon real-time data from the CityProbe sensors that are placed around the inner city of Aarhus (DK). Currently 22 CityProbes are active, and during Spring 2019 48 CityProbes wil be located throughout the inner city of Aarhus thanks to Teknik og Miljø.

Data from the CityProbes can be accessed via the platform Open Data DK.

The second data source for the installation are elementary schools classes within the area. They are invited in by the Aarhus Public Libraries for two workshop days during a period of 2 weeks. The workshops will give them insights on programming micro:bits in order to perform their own data harvest and data contribution for the installation. In this way students will contribute with data from their local area – and the installation uncovers further sonic territories on the sound map.

Sketch on installation design

This is the current state of our installation design. The Alexandra Institute is working on producing a motherboard that houses the micro:bits, we are programming during the workshops.

The motherboard expands the functionality of the micro:bit by introducing great new features. e.g.:

  • new ways of powering the micro:bit over longer periods
  • data transmission over LoRaWan
  • improved sound sensors

Design print for the motherboard housing the micro:bits

Furthermore, the Alexandra Institute is working on the technical solution that integrates data sources and visualizes the data.

We imagine the installation to take form in a custom build setup at Dokk1, Aarhus. The installation will be based on mostly existing hardware, including the grid-based furniture already in use for exhibitions within the library space and possibly screens, projectors and computers.

The installation has to be able to communicate the scope of installation itself as well as basic information on the project behind the installation.

The design is still under development. But this is the current state. We look forward to shaping it further the coming months.

In May 2019 we will run the first test workshops with the actual motherboards, micro:bits and technical infrastructure – as well as the first basic visualizations at Dokk1, Aarhus (DK).

Smart sleepers and video photography

3D illustration of Interconnected neurons with electrical pulses.

On the 16th January you can get an introduction to the collaborative art-work “Sleep in the city”, meet the artists and try the technology.

Smart Aarhus is in a collaborative process with the artists Virgile Novarina and Walid Breidi for the creation of an artwork performance during the June 2019 IOT Festival (Internet of Things) week in Aarhus.

The artwork will consist of a dream-like atmosphere in the city at night, where videos of the city taken during the day will be recreated in real time by people’s sleep brainwaves. The components of this participative artwork are interactive video clips, sleep data from a number of “smart” sleepers including that of the sleep artist Virgile Novarina.

The artists wish to invite you to reflect upon the importance of sleep in urban life and the role of the internet in your life.

Become a Smart Sleeper

Do you want to take part in the performance, and become a smart sleeper for one night? We will lend you a headband with sensors, and your brain waves will transform the video stream in real time. This event is a briefing for those who wish to participate.

Testing Muse headband at Dokk1 – The Data Democracy project will be doing workshops for schools about datastories created with brainwaves…

Filming your favorite place in Aarhus

You can participate in creating Sleep in the City, by sending the artists a video clip of something close to your heart – a place or people here in Aarhus. 7 videos made by the public and edited by the artists will be screened on public displays of Aarhus. The video clip should be 1 minute long, and you can film it with your smartphone, video recorder or camera, what matters to us is that the content is memorable and significant to Aarhus. The videos can be sent to Virgile Novarina:

If you chose to share your experience with the artwork online, please use: #sleepinthecityaarhus, #smartaarhus and #vertigostarts