SenseMaker secures Google DNI funding



SenseMaker brings together UCLan’s Media Innovation Studio and Engineering Innovation Centre, publisher Reach PLC and the Manchester Evening News, and a range supporting partners to ‘co-create’ web-connected sensors for journalism.

Google DNI, a European-wide fund that is geared towards supporting innovation journalism and the media, has provided €48,000 in funding for the team to explore how dedicated sensor kits could provide rich data for journalism.  

With partners spanning engineering and journalism, and with supporting partners such as the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, and, SenseMaker will design and develop dedicated journalism sensor kits that respond to, reveal, or add value to, local issues via co-creation and user-centred design. It will test the premise that by co-creating data collection tools, with a high level of sensor and engineering capability, our prototypes will be highly relevant and suitable for journalists and their communities.

Our outputs will include novel and highly relevant connected sensing kits; rich multimedia content generated from collected data; data visualisations; explorations into scalable hardware development and legitimate use cases and commercialisation opportunities across the entire product development pipeline.

The sensor prototypes could sense pollution, biometric data, thermal imagery, noise, infrared and audio information and the resulting datasets will prompt novel and compelling editorial responses; enabling citizens and journalists to work together in creating compelling content, or independently verifying official/third party data.

It also offers the opportunity to create new revenue models.

By combining previously uncovered information and data with local knowledge and situations, we aim help users/audiences interpret and make sense of the world they live in.

John Mills, lecturer and researcher at the Media Innovation Studio and project lead, said: “We’re excited about connecting people, data and stories. By including a range of industry and community groups in our process, we hope to create compelling and relevant editorial content via unique sensing devices. It’s going to be a fascinating project.”

Alison Gow, Editor-in-Chief (Digital) with Reach Regionals, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for our journalists to explore new ways of generating environmental data, enabling them to tell the stories which we know are important to local audiences.

“The SenseMaker project will allow reporters to engage with communities, and also policymakers, around key local issues and could also help shape the agenda for addressing these issues.”

Catalina Albeanu, International Editor at, said: “The SenseMaker project will have a tangible impact on the tools available to journalists in newsrooms of all sizes to better report on their communities. By bringing together journalists and technologists to explore the use of sensors for newsgathering, SenseMaker will be able to create prototypes and new use cases that are accessible to both national and local media and can realistically be integrated into day-to-day reporting practices.”

The Media Innovation Studio has been funded a total of three times by Google DNI. MIS received funding in 2016 for NewsThings, which sought to create and build dedicated Internet of Things  devices that conveyed news and information to newsrooms and the public. It’s three prototypes – ConeThing, RadioThing and PrinterThing, have been demoed across the globe, and are currently undergoing in-depth user trials to allow the team to better understand how journalism could take advantage of a new publication platform.  

SenseMaker will start in autumn this year.