EnergySense design
Responsibilities: UX research, interaction design, mobile UI design​​​​​​​, IoT implementation
Research & Design Process
1. Identified design problem and target audience
2. Secondary research and comparative analysis
3. Sketched, wireframed, and prototyped design ideas
4. Design reviews
5. Refined design ideas (three iterations)
6. Developed the design idea in iOS 7 and implemented IoT
7. User evaluation with photo documentary, in-home visits, and interviews
8. Analyzed user data and delivered the research report
When non-family housemates live together, they co-manage and consume energy of the house. Frictions may take place and increase the energy consumption based on the following reasons:
1) when they have different and conflicting personal comforts, 2) when they have different ideas on balancing energy needs and comfort, and 3) when they have different styles on managing the shared energy use.​​​​​​​
Among those three reasons, energy-related conflicts often take place for the following two reasons:
1. Housemates often cannot figure out who leave the shared lights (in the communal space) on without any particular reason. They tend to blame each other for not attending to shared electricity usage and causing an increase in energy cost.
2. Some housemates often forget to turn off their bedroom light when not in use. They are often blamed for causing more energy use when the utility cost increases in regardless of the real reasons for the increase.
This study looks at how to design a mobile technology to effectively reduce energy consumption and avoid energy-related conflicts of housemates.
Target Audience
Housemates who live together but do not belong to the same family
Design of EnergySense
I designed an mobile app called EnergySense (e.g., prototypes, UI design) to balance automatic energy control and personal control to reduce energy consumption and avoid conflicts when housemates co-manage their energy use at home. It has the following key features:
1. Automatically senses a housemate's proximity to the shared living space, and turns the shared light (in the communal space) on when the housemate is close to home in the evening and turns it off when no one is in the shared space
In this case, no one gets "blamed" for forgetting to turn off the shared light in the communal space.
2. Automatically senses a housemate's sleeping status, and turns the individual bedroom light on when the housemate is awake and turns the light off when the housemate goes to sleep or leave the house.
In this case, no one gets "blamed" for forgetting to turn off their bedroom light.​​​​​​​
After a number of design reviews, I developed the EnergySense app with UX engineer Roshini Thiagarajan, Cyndi Chin, and software engineer Stephanie Zhou.
IoT Implementations
How can EnergySense auto control a light? EnergySense communicates with a Wemo switch (see the diagram below). When it detects a users's movement, location, and sleeping status, it sends signals to the Wemo switch to control the behavior of the light.
IoT implementation
User Evaluation of EnergySense
To understand whether EnergySense can successfully reduces or avoid conflicts while supporting housemates to save energy, I planned and conducted a user evaluation study with the following three components:
1. In-house visits, to install EnergySense and Wemo switches for the participants, and answer any question that users may have
2. Participants using EnergySense for three weeks
3. Semi-structured interviews to understand participants' experiences and interactions with EnergySense, whether or not conflicts took place related to energy use, and if the household energy consumption was reduced​​​​​​​
Qualified participants of the study must meet the following criteria: Healthy adults 1) who are at least 18 years old; 2) live with at least one housemate; 3) participate in the study with all the housemates; and 4) owns an iPhone.​​​​​​​
10 households with a total of 50 housemates
Research Insights
EnergySense is so easy and intuitive to use that participants are willing to adjust their behavior to adapt to EnergySense.
EnergySense (collectively personal control to the shared light) bonds housemates. They would get together to decide when to turn on and off the shared light together more, and discuss the app and energy experience use together.
"It bonds us [refers to all the housemates] together!" (Ellen, female, housemate with other four people)
EnergySense (automatic control) create playful moments. They are excited to introduce EnergySense to house guests. Sometimes, housemates compete to be the first one to turn off the shared light.
"I thought we would prank each other by controlling the light [refers to the shared light]. But we did not. Every evening, we tried to to be the first one to turn off the light." (Olive, female, housemate with other three people)
Automation provides a repairing option to fix human mistakes, e.g., forget to turn off lights.
EnergySense bonds housemates together instead of creating conflicts while supporting them to save energy. All 50 participants mention that they interact with their housemates more when using EnergySense. They do not need to worry about forgetting to turn off lights, because EnergySense takes care for them. The best thing ever is that they do not need to be paranoid about the shared light in the communal space
According to Ashley, "If anything happens, it is EnergySense's fault that fails to turn off the shared light. We know who to blame".
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