HCI Project Diary I – Smart Library

Is the campus intelligent enough? Which part of the campus can be more smarter?


As an exchange student here in UST, it’s a really nice experience to team up with people in different backgrounds, and all of us put our endeavor into different parts of the project.


Starting from the brainstorming session, we’ve considered a lot of aspects in our campus, and came up with different ideas regarding the inconvenience of our daily lives. For example, we’ve discussed integrating student card & room card, also better path advisor based on our current location. Finally we turned to the library, where students in UST are “living in”.

My teammates raised the problem that the library is often full, and they’d be very disappointed after coming all the way to the library and finding no seats. We also interviewed the staff at the library counter, and got to know that they are using a very old way of counting people.

Photo by Linnéa

After talking with more people, we confirmed to further develop into this problem. So our next goal is to design a smart way to count people inside the library, and deliver this information effectively to anyone who wants to know it.

Library people counter

Idea by Andrew

How to count the people? We’ve come across different plans, including an image identification based on the existing security cameras or body temperature sensors.

But then we came up with a simpler, low-cost solution: break beam sensor. As all the entrances and exits of the library is one-way, we can deploy such sensors on each exit, and breaking the beam indicates a person in/out. Moreover, we can utilize the existing entrance gate to count incoming students by uploading the total card scanned.

Library Entrance (G/F) Photo by Linnéa

We also discussed about the possibility of counting people in different floors. Theoretically if we put enough break beam sensors at the lifts and the end of the stairs, we could get a statistic of how many people are in the certain floor. However, it’s relatively hard and inaccurate to use break beam sensor to tell the direction of moving, and our goal is to help students decide whether to go to the library, so we did not expand this discussion.


UI designed by Simon

My teammate designed the user interface with the Google Material Design, showing the occupancy and the trend of student number in library, other space is used to display news and available rooms.

Video Prototype & Presentation

To demonstrate our ideas & designs, we decided to make two videos in our presentation: one for emphasizing the problem, the other for illustrating how our system works. I takes some videos and edited them, fast-forwarding the way to library to emphasize the problem we had.

Then, my teammate made the technical demo with excellent skills in 3D modeling and animation, vividly demonstrated how our system supposed to work.


In the whole process of designing, we keep think about some complicated designs to improve some aspects of our prototype; but soon we realized that we just need to keep simple & easy. Complicated designs are often expensive and impractical, while simple, delicate design are often more valuable.

Having good communication & cooperation is definitely a key to the overall progress. With a good structure and division of the whole task, we can significantly accelerate the whole process.

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