Posts Tagged 'energy'

High Tech: Low Carbon Week

I’ve dropped into a couple of events this week that are part of High Tech: Low Carbon Week, organised by Intellect (a trade association for the technology industry). Yesterday it was the turn of the DEHEMS (Digital Environmental Home Energy Management System) project – a European Union funded project that uses technology to improve energy efficiency in the home. DEHEMS have prototyped (currently using an Electrisave and custom router) a real time energy display system that uploads data from a domestic home via the internet every six seconds to a central database. The home-owner can view this data on a dashboard, showing them how their actions relate to their home’s energy consumption. In short, it’s another addition to the world of real time energy displays, and not at nearly as advanced a stage as others in the field, which isn’t at all to say that they won’t contribute anything, but I think they will find the UK a challenging market to compete within over the next few years.

Lucky for them then, that they are conducting research in other countries across Europe and will also produce cross cultural research on behaviour change that I’d love to see.

A couple of other points they made also stuck in my head.

First the recession will mean that fewer people upgrade their appliances, meaning arguments that say standby power consumption is not an issue (standby consumption of televisions has fallen from about 15W on appliances in the 90s to under 1W on the latest appliances according to another event I attended) are less compelling. As they put it, our appliances have a lasting energy efficiency legacy.

Second though their interaction design is clearly better than the simple real time displays you can buy in Maplin, the interaction design design seems pretty bog standard (e.g. the dashboard shows you how your house compares to others in your neighbourhood, but no sign yet of Cialdini’s smiley faces to neutralise rebound effects – though they said they were aware of that research) and viewing it seems currently limited to an iPhone (for the gadget-lovers) or a web interface (so you need to be carrying a laptop round the house while learning about your appliance’s consumption). But the good point is that they have developed an API (a way that third parties can develop custom software that displays the energy data from DEHEM’s database), which I think they plan to open up – allowing anyone with a technical leaning to develop custom ways of displaying and interacting with the data.

Third, after early experiments, DEHEMS are confident that a lasting 20% saving in energy consumption (5% above the upper limit of the current most reliable review of the effect of direct feedback on behaviour change) is easily attainable, and are planning larger experiments across 250 homes in the UK.

I didn’t like to ask whether they were concerned about the competition, but a delegate from the Energy Retail Association had no such qualms and pointed out towards the end of the presentation that Google today launched their own version of a real time display.

From the RSA to the RCA

Just a quick post to say that, after a tip-off from a colleague, this evening I dropped in to the Royal College of Art’s interim show. Running from the 5th to the 11th February, the show features work from the RCA’s Architecture, Innovation Design Engineering (used to be Industrial Design Engineering), Design Interactions, Printmaking and Animation students.

As always, there was a huge amount to take in, and if I tried to describe any of the work there, I’d probably misrepresent it horribly… So I’ll settle for saying that I enjoyed the Architecture – particularly the Hero section (inspired by the idea of gritty “anti-heroes”, and the communities shaped by that concept) and Tribes (“micro-societies” of people with shared values – who are they in today’s world, and how should buildings accommodate them?), and also pretty much any of the lovely work from the Animation students.

The reason I was tipped-off though, was that one of the projects from Innovation Design Engineering featured some energy-related ideas. The Potential (website currently down) project focuses on the near-future, when almost every home will have a smart meter. Smart meters primarily allow electricity companies to get real time data on people’s electricity consumption (allowing them to match their electricity production to your consumption more closely) and will probably also include the sort of real time displays I’ve blogged about before to help people understand and reduce their energy consumption by switching off non-essential appliances. The Potential project imagines three electricity tariffs that use different interfaces to help people interact with their smart meter – maximising, the designers hope, the savings that smart meters could provide by using design to engage people with their energy supply. It will be interesting to see the direction that these interfaces take over the next few months.

By the way, if you drop in to the exhibition, do check out my absolute favourite thing; also from Innovation Design Engineering – 1234 Lab’s 8hertz jewellery:

8hertz is jewellery formed from phrases of intimate communication. A recording of an individual’s voice is translated into a unique three-dimensional form, capturing every nuance, subtlety and accent. [1]

You can have a look here.

[1] 1234 Labs, http://www.1234lab.com/8hertz/index.html


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