Professor Katharine Willis Pioneers

Katharine Willis, Professor of Smart Cities and Communities, is a leading voice in the exploration of our interactions with and perceptions of our spatial environment and technology, developing innovative ways of creating inclusive urban spaces through new technologies.

Shaping inclusive smart city responses to urban spaces

Katharine’s approach to smart cities is focused on the community in the spaces, and the need to build from the ground-up to create inclusive environments. Her research has investigated how people shape technologies to their needs in the UK, India and Brazil, questioning the role of civic inclusiveness in the process and bridging architecture, urban planning, urban studies and ubiquitous computing disciplines. Her published work with colleague Professor Alessandro Aurigi has helped define the characteristics of a smart city.

Her Green Minds project is altering the dynamic between people and green spaces. Working with a city wide partnership led by Plymouth City Council, the project rethinks nature as a solution to health and wellbeing challenges, recognising the benefits those spaces bring to citizens. Using innovative digital tools such as sensors and augmented reality to make nature more visible and exciting, Katharine is contributing to creating a new co-stewardship model in the city.

Thought leadership

Smart cities should work for everyone

New city technologies need to serve and work for the communities first in terms of their design, deployment and in setting local civic and infrastructural priorities. Read more about smart cities

Working with local communities to develop healthy neighbourhoods and villages

The Pop Up centre for Health Technology in Stonehouse addressed health inequality and social deprivation in Plymouth using digital technology and eHealth solutions. Katharine worked with partners Nudge Community Builders, Plymouth City Council and the University’s Centre for Health Technology to bring together researchers and students from nursing, sociology, design, medicine and architecture, together with community organisers and local residents.

Breathe is Katharine’s pilot project investigating how self-managing and sharing breathing data via an Internet of Things (IoT) testbed, can be used to benefit rural communities. Working with the Breathers support group, the project focuses on the challenges of gathering, managing and sharing such data and on the benefits of access to fresh air in rural, wild settings, with the intention of sharing data visualisations and improving access to support for those with breathing-related health issues in rural areas. The project will test the benefits of smart breathing sensors for patients with long term respiratory conditions.

The person behind the pioneer

Helping to design a smarter tomorrow.

Read more about Professor Katharine Willis

Technology is not just a ‘thing’ but how we make sense of the world. We can design buildings, but we can also design how we interact with those buildings and the space around them.

I see it in an expanded sense; not bricks and mortar, but how we inhabit space.

Professor Katharine Willis

Champion for health

Our research tackles the most pressing public health issues to improve the health and care of the populations we serve. We have a vibrant community of interdisciplinary research that is truly cutting-edge, from disease discovery to innovative care practices, novel treatments to clinical trials. We are at the forefront of research into the mechanisms, treatments and best care practices for areas including brain tumours, Parkinson’s disease, ageing communities, digital health, antibiotic resistance, and health inequalities.

Our close partnership with the University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust, together with the Derriford Research Facility, place us on the frontline of applied research from the laboratory to the patients across medicine, dentistry and healthcare professions.

Plymouth Institute of Health and Care Research

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