Archive for the ‘3.7 Concept Development’ Category

3.7.12 Jitter Plugz

Sunday, May 10th, 2009

See this evidence for context

The Jitter PLugz Website

The Jitter PLugz Website

Background
This is an evidence that explore aspects of design opportunities related to the possibilities in the connection of virtual wires in a smart grid. Through the product Jitter Plugz I suggest a service that you install as a “widget” or small program in your energy dashboard. This widget is linked to a small portable electrical socket that you can plug in wherever you are, at work or on vacation, and will feed you only the energy produced by your generating devices in your home. The communication is also made available though your Twitter[1] feed for added visibility. This can be a motivation factor as you can show and share your daily production. A version of the widget is also provided for communities and is added to the sidebar display current events. When it is clicked it takes you to the jitterplugzcom front page with a brief explanation of what it does. These evidences are not functional.

Tweet-A-Watt project

© Tweet-A-Watt project

Reference Project
The Tweet-A-Watt project has received lots of attention after it won the greener gadgets design competition this year. It’s concept is to measure consumption and send a Tweet about it on Twitter.

The jitterPlugz, in addition to send electricity from one socket to the other, can Tweet about is production and exchange electricity as well. Using twitter there is also the possibility to let the devices autonomously communicate through twitter to make a visible and updated stream of information. Other Jitterz could request energy from any such plug, and it’s owner could use Twitter to respond to those requests.

References in this post
  1. A very popular Micro blog where only 140 characters of content is allowed [*]

3.7.11 ENERGY@Home

Sunday, May 10th, 2009

See this evidence for context

Energy at home - dashboard

Energy at home - dashboard


Background
Exploiting the similarities to the infamous distributed computing project “SETI@Home”, where thousands of private computers all over the world are pooled to make a joint effort to analyse radio signals from space[1], I suggest the services of “ENERGY@Home”. It is a service that pools thousands of micro generators all over the world. This creates a virtual utility, comparable to a file sharing network where electricity is distributed and statistics of production are dissected.

Motivation
Using this product is a matter of participating in a community that pools its resources (electricity) to the benefit of its participants. Sharing production statistics as well as sharing the energy (not evidenced at this point) is a step in the road to become self-sufficient on electricity.

Process
This service is evidenced as a widget, a small standalone application, that can be included in any web page. In this case the widget is added by the blog owner Eric André (my main persona), and it is accessible through the blog sidebar. The widget, when clicked, takes you to the main energy@home web site (see above) that I included to suggest how this service might be presented. Its intention is to let you have details on your own statistics, your community statistics and global statistics.

Myenergyusage community statistics, in real time!

Myenergyusage community statistics, in real time!

Reference Project
Aside from the SETI@home project mentioned above, the idea is related to the consumption data sharing community myenergyusage.org. This community shares data from the Wattson energy meter and pools them to see the total consumption by the community. Energy at home takes this to the next step by sharing production data on a personal, local (community) and global level. And through the site the intention is that they will trade or share the energy between them. (The gauges are the same as they are provided by a google API)

References in this post
  1. Anderson, D., Cobb, J., Korpela, E., Lebofsky, M., & Werthimer,
    D. (2002). SETI@home: An Experiment in Public-Resource Computing. Berkley: Space Sciences Laboratory U.C. Berkley. [*]

3.7.10 Fictional Discourse

Sunday, May 10th, 2009

As the intention is to emulate an active community that is excited and proud if their participation in this project, they comment on posts and discuss their shared experiences through images and text.

While the content of untappedEnergy.org is made by me, the general visual style is adapted from a generic theme that is made available through the software provider wordpress.org

Persona

Personas are a documented set of archetypical people who are involved with a product or service[1].

Based on the interviews I got three typical archetypes and one based on my own demographic:

The pro-active
The energy consumer that pay for better utilisation of energy

The post-active
The sober consumer who makes the best of the existing structures

The “Heritage”
The one who are imprinted with a different paradigm for energy consumption and tries to adapt.

The Technical
The one who enjoys exploring new technology and inform others about it. Also seen as the early adaptor as new technology costs money and not everyone will jump on the band wagon before it starts.

See more of their background at untappedenergy.org.

References in this post
  1. Saffer, D. (2007). Designing for Interaction. Berkley: New Riders. [*]

3.7.9 Evaluation of ”Green energy for my..”

Monday, April 27th, 2009

See this evidence for context.

The Video

Is successful in implying an user operating the various features.The hand-held shaking of the camera adds to the probability of being filmed by an amateur

Virtual Wire

The panels needs a more detailed explanation. In these to pictures, some of the details are .. detailed.

Details of the metering panel

Details of the metering panel

Details of the "Virtual Wire" Panel

Details of the "Virtual Wire" Panel

Greener Action base

In the video the user connects the water boiler to the solar panel by drag & drop method. The idea is that the water boiler’s base will see this connection and only light up green when enough electricity is produced by the solar panel. This is shown in the accompanying picture in the post. The user can then be confident that the green tea he does drink is in fact greener.

3.7.8 The process behind Green energy for my..”

Monday, April 27th, 2009

See this evidence for context.

Metering

Based on the research I did earlier on Meters and Energy Dashboards it is quite evident that some sort of control panel is at the base of any modern domestic electricity infrastructure. To place this on a screen in the Circuit Breaker is only meant as a metaphor on that I insert a layer between the user and the physical electricity. This is further enhanced by dragging the “Virtual Wire” screen on top of the current metering.

Greener actions

The idea of presenting the consumer with enough information to make a decision to turn an appliance on or off can have great effect on the power grid. In England there is a phenomenon named “TV Pickup” linked to the TV show “East Enders”. When the show ends an horde of viewers tap water into their tea kettles and switch them on. Such specific timed peaks on the load are quite rare, but can be observed in this clip from “Britain From Above” on BBC:

A solution to this problem is to inform people on the situation I real time at the moment they are to decide on turning things on or off. Examples of this are found in prototype like the “Smart Switch” that is harder to press while on a local peak. Or the tea kettle(Video) from Lennart Fahlén (SICS) that predicts peaks and let you collaboratively book a time slot when demand is low.

Concept development

This development was two staged to try to show the relation between setup and end use.

The Circuit Breaker Panel

Acknowledging the previous research a per appliance metering sorted under the traditional circuits would be MAYA, to quote a famous designer. The detailed metering is a solid base for the next step which is to connect the devices electrically together by virtual wires. If the electricity is metered and converted to abstracted units (kWh) there is no reason why discrete amounts of electricity can be routed to where you , the device or other services decide. This virtual wire panel acts as a detailed statistics display so inputs and outputs can be matched for connection. This panel would easily be open for third party services through an API.

The kettle

In this example the water boiler is matched to the solar panel and a connection is made. This parameter that is defined in the Virtual Wire panel is displayed in context as lights in the base of the boiler. When the predefined condition is true, the LEDs lights up to inform the consumer. It is now up to he or she to wait until the green light is on to turn the appliance on. A stricter device, made by a concious branded company, could enforce this by not letting anyone turn the device on until certain conditions where met.

Process images

3.7.7 The motivation behind ”Green energy for my..”

Monday, April 27th, 2009

See this evidence for context.

Background

When the solar panel was installed and producing energy, confirmed by the mobile GUI we could have been content. A consequence of an intelligent Home Grid is that you could have virtual wiring. As the actual electricity is measured and converted to an abstract unit (kWh) services are free to trade and move these units between appliances. If an appliance like the kettle is supplied with a set measure of kWh it can control itself to use just that amount. So if your solar panel produces 528KJ in four hours and eleven minutes it is enough to give 2200 Watts for 4 minutes which is enough to cook water for a cup of tea or so.

User Motivation

So instead of just deduct the kWh produced from the total consumption, a more interesting action would be to specify where that energy is used. To be able to control when and where his own energy is produced and then be able to control the same at the consumption is key to give the user a greater sense of participation and ownership to his electricity.

Context

On a time scale, this action would not necessary be done each day. One could set it up once and be happy with that. Or if you are an eager user testing several set-ups would be the norm.

3.7.6 Evaluation of ”Interfacing my home..”

Monday, April 27th, 2009

This text relates to “Interfacing my home grid”

Analysis
The goal of this was to emphasise the use of in context screens so to not distract people from what they are doing, but just keep on going while working on it. This is visible in the narrative and suggests the use of phone screens as a useful interface to the appliance.

Conclusion
This is an design opportunity where designers, and product developers can come together and develop interfaces that adds value to “mute” products.

3.7.5 The process behind ”Interfacing my home..”

Monday, April 27th, 2009

This text relates to “Interfacing my home grid”

References
I have previously done a project developing a messaging service based on NFC phones and RFID tags. The reasoning for this is that phones with this ability is not saturating the market in Norway as of today. In this reality there are usually the Koreans or South East Asians that have access to commercial services that utilises their NFC capable phones. On the other side, there is quite a few research projects that investigates this technology, such as the TOUCH project I’ve been involved in previously, lead by Timo Arnall.

Concept Development
To be able to immediately compare the output of a device, the energy it produces, with something you are familiar with a valid parameter to display is the effect it produces electricity at i.e. Watt. If the device have an output of 54 Watts you could power another device that consumes the same, lets say a 50 Watt laptop charger. On a generating unit, this parameter in real time can help maximising output by tuning position or other environmental parameters. The other interesting parameter to display is Watts over time. Watts per seconds/minute/hours will give an indication of how much energy you have produced, and if not immediately consumed, stored for future use. How many thousand Watts per hour (kWh) you produce or consume is the common unit of measurement when buying or selling electricity for private consumers. These parameters useful to display on any unit:

Output Watts Realtime
Output over time Watts per hour Graphed over time
Input Watts Realtime
Input over time Watts per hour Graphed over time
Total I/O Watts Odometer

Process images

3.7.4 The motivation behind ”Interfacing my home..”

Monday, April 27th, 2009

This text relates to “Interfacing my home grid”

Background
As previously discussed, visual feedback of consumption have an impact on consumption (up to 20% reduction). To have access to real time information give you the best opportunity to act then and there, but also give a great amount of historical data that might be used to enhance parameters in the future.

Motivation
I am fascinated by statistics and connections and would like all artefacts to be approachable and have an interface which I could tap into. As of today, in my view, this idea is best served by a mobile phone with NFC capability. In that context, any item can have a rich interface that does not depend upon the artefact’s physical traits outside of containing a RFID tag. Using a phone or other device to read the tag via very short range radio waves the ID of the artifact can be looked up in a database and connected to a stream of dynamic or static information that can be sent to the screen of the phone.

Context
Building on the story of installing the solar panels the person would like to see how much electricity that is produced. This could be done at a stationary computer or other display, but by moving away from the desk the idea is to give the person this ability where he or she is to avoid interrupting the joy of the product in place.

3.7.3 Evaluation of ”Solar panels installed..”

Sunday, April 26th, 2009

This entry relates to this post on untappedenergy.org.

Point of interest

Points of interest

1. Solar panel installation
In just emulating a solar panel installation the image does a good job. The advantage of shopping rather than installing a real or model panel is freedom of composition. The picture includes the parts I needed to tell the story and little else.

2. Inlet/Outlet Socket
A feedback on this part of the image is that it is a bit ambiguous what the lights signify. One could be that green means “This socket delivers green energy right now”. So further work could consist of making a less ambiguous language of the signifier.

Conclusion
The image and narrative suggest a snapshot of the resent installation of solar panel in my persona’s living room. A video of the persona connecting the lead from the PV panel to the Inlet/Outlet would have explained the function of the LEDs better than just the photo.

3.7.2 The Process behind ”Solar panels installed..”

Sunday, April 26th, 2009

This entry relates to this post on untappedenergy.org.

References
The greenergadgets competition 2009 had an entry which is playing in the same field. The Inlet concept suggests a second socket type in our homes that accepts generating devices connected to it. The design uses the poka-yoke principle to accept only specially designed power leads from the generating devices.

Concept Development
The key idea to my suggested design is to let the Smart Grid be smart and auto sense the incoming electricity and route the incoming electricity to the inverter. In this case the user will not need to concider the characteristics of the power in the lead (Consumption or Production).

Process images

3.7.1 The motivation behind ”Solar panels installed”

Saturday, April 25th, 2009

This entry relates to this post on untappedenergy.org.

Background
In Germany there has been a federal law (The “Stromeinspeisungsgesetz”) since December 1990 that regulates how the utilities buy back renewable energy from their customers. This law combined with low interest loans for installing solar energy has made Germany a leader in private solar installations. Good federal legislations is key to the proliferation of private renewable energy installations.

Motivation
The act of producing power at home has been available to the regular, but interested customer, for a while. Usually the system would consist of a generator and one of three options:

  1. Immediate use of the produced electricity
    • Cheap to install and operate
    • Limited to applications proportional to energy production
  2. A battery to store produced energy
    • Independent of infrastructure
    • Expensive and bulky batteries required
  3. An inverter that lets you make the generator a part of the main grid
    • Needs no batteries and easy to operate
    • Legislation, incentives and technology required

The first option is impractical, but for a vent fan that should operate only on a warm sunny day, this option is fine. The more common solution is to store energy in a battery for use when it is not sunny or at the times where you need more that the current production allows. The most elegant solution, that is common in places where the government gives incentives like 4:1 ratio on production price versus consumption price, is to send electricity back to the grid, when it is produced. In this option the grid acts as a battery. Currently this requires special equipment to be installed and legislation needs to be in place and the local utility must have an electricity grid that can manage to get ectricity the other way.

This visualisation suggests how simple it should be:

  1. Install the solar panel on a wall that faces the sun for the better part of the day
  2. Plug it in to the inlet for sending current into the grid

Context
The choice of a regular living room with access to a balcony or similar would be available for a large demographic in cities in Europe. The illustrations suggests that this hardware part, that require some work by the customer, is not necessary complicated when the right technology is implemented in your home.