Fahim Kawsar has a penchant for asking questions, specifically regarding human behaviour. Leading the Internet of Things (IoT) Research at the Nokia Bell Labs in Cambridge, Kawsar and his colleagues seek to understand real-world human behaviour, designing computational models of people-to-people, people-to-place and people-to-thing interactions to build transformative multisensory systems.
“How can I better understand end-users, their intentions, their activities, their personalities, their interactions with people, places and things?” Kawsar asks. “This understanding gives us a holistic view of our end-users and allows us to create digital experiences and capabilities that fundamentally change the way we experience our lives.”
An experimental computer scientist at heart, Kawsar originates from Bangladesh where he completed his undergraduate studies before serving an academic appointment as Lecturer at the Islamic University of Technology. In 2004, he worked as a researcher at the Nokia Research Centre in Tokyo, while pursuing his Master’s and Doctorate Degrees in Computer Science at Waseda University. Kawsar then went on to conduct his Postdoctoral Research at Lancaster University in 2009 and joined the Nokia Bell Labs as a Senior Research Scientist a year later. In 2013, he stepped into his current role as a Research Director.
“Design needs to be on a continuum—a key fabric that should shape the convolution of these different disciplines continuously to redefine human experiences with technology.”
While engineering software systems and services during his PhD, Kawsar came to recognise the significance of assessing “human need” during the application development process. “I think the value of design research is that most designers start with a human need,” he explains. “This is critical because we often build systems that are cute or good to have but are rarely useful, as they do not solve a real human problem.” These insights led Kawsar to focus on computational behaviour modelling, using this understanding to identify problems and build end-to-end systems around them.
As a Design United Visiting Professor at Delft University of Technology’s Connected Everyday Lab, Kawsar is helping to develop a new course called “Designing with Data for the Internet of Things” and argues that the behaviour of a perceptive application in the IoT space should evolve continuously at an individual scale, demanding a new design process.
“We are using this course as a tool for research to examine how end-users can be engaged in the design lifecycle actively, continuously reshaping the application behaviour through data. We expect the outcome of this will help us to develop a brand new design methodology for the Internet of Things applications.”
Design in a continuum
According to Kawsar, computational materials and machine intelligence will shape the future of personal computing. “We are very close to liberating ourselves from carrying mobile devices,” he claims. “Emerging computational materials will soon form a profound, intimate and organic relationship with our body to augment our awareness, take care of our health and help us experience and interact with the physical and digital world in a radically different way.”
Nevertheless, success in these fields hinges on the ability of computer scientists, material scientists, and designers to collaborate, combine, and transform disciplines to foster innovation. “I think today, design happens in a very isolated fashion,” Kawsar says. “Design needs to be on a continuum—a key fabric that should shape the convolution of these different disciplines continuously to redefine human experiences with technology.”
Personal profile of Fahim Kawsar
Visiting professor 2017
Designing user-centered systems for the Internet of Things