Design idea:Location Box

For my PhD project I did a study in which my partner got access to my location via a GPS tracker as it is used in dementia care. One of the issues I struggled with was that he had control over the data and would be able to change the settings without my knowledge. I responded to this by drawing out a speculative idea of how design could support trust.

communication_machineThe cube enables control over two functionalities: access to location and access to sound (potentially also image). If furter has a button with which to establich contact. Two sides show the same arrangement of buttons, one for each partner. The top shows a light that either shines green, when both have the same settings or red, when the settings are different from each other. The front shows a notepad on which to leave messages, e.g. why one partner changed the setting. The back could show the location of those partners who agreed to it.

The device has one problem that I have yet to overcome. While studies show that caregivers would like to prevent people with dementia from changing the settings on purpose or by accident, people with dementia would like to have control. It would be interesting to test though if this applied to all situations. I imagine this to be used quite early on after the diagnosis, more as a tool for communication and exploration, rather than practical support. Another question that needed exploration is how this device would affect quality of life and whether it would be considered to increase the stigma around the illness or be a painful reminder of the changes that become necessary.


This solution still has many flaws that have not been overcome. It is still based on monitoring, still might lead to conflicts between the partners, but I think it approaches the problem from a slightly new angle by giving control to both partners. It is still possible for one to control it on their own, but the knowledge and understanding of what is happening with the data is shared.

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