The smart meter

MOTIVATING A SUSTAINABLE ELECTRICITY USAGE

The SmartMeter is a prototype on an alternative electricity meter, which explores how interaction design can motivate a sustainable electricity usage by tapping into social discourses on environmental responsibility.

The SmartMeter was inspired by the Danish goal to become almost independent of fossil fuels by the year 2050. Estimating that 80% of the power consumption, at that time, must come from sustainable sources such as wind, solar and waterpower. The challenge with sustainable power is that it is very unpredictable, meaning that windmills can only produce power when the wind blows.  As it is now, power cannot be saved, but must be used immediately, for it not to go to waste. In relation to this problem, we designed the SmartMeter as a motivation for the user to move some of their electricity consumption to periods of time, where the power is produced from sustainable sources.

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The electricity meter is designed to fit a touchscreen, and is to be placed in a visible and central location in the home. By using a mix of social interaction and gamification the SmartMeter makes it easy for the user to be more environmentally aware and is a fun way for the whole family to engage in the households’ electricity consumption. The goal is for the family to move their electricity consumption to periods of time with sustainable electricity available, and lower their consumption in the other periods.

Through an animation of a windmill the SmartMeter visualizes whether the power available is from sustainable sources or fossil fuels. When the windmill is moving it visualizes that sustainable electricity is produced and the family gains a point for electricity used in this period. Vice versa when the windmill stands still, they get a point deducted from their score when using energy in this period. Besides seeing you own score the SmartMeter also visualizes a friends score, who also have a Smart Meter, and your common score. Thus, creating friendly competition while keeping a focus on environmentally awareness as shared responsibility.

Though the SmartMeter was a prototype with a very simple interface, it proved to have strong motivational qualities in our field testings.

In addition to the design, an academic paper, on how the social aspect of the SmartMeter influenced the electricity consumption, was published at the SMART ARIA CONGRESS 2012. Download paper

The project was made in collaboration with Louise Jensen, Nicolaj Sundalh & Sofie Hauge Katan – Autumn 2011