Friday, March 20, 2009

The UX of SmartGridCity: Control Your SmartHouse Remotely, Online

My interest in interactive wireless sensor networks has been growing over the past several months. This technology supports how we will interact with our "things" in the world. It sounds futuristic, but the technology is here and is in the implementation stage in Boulder, Colorado, known as SmartGrid City.

There are some issues facing the usability of this system for homeowners who participate in the SmartGrid City project. Here is an example from an article in the Wall Street Journal:

"...The Petersons' experience with the smart grid has not been entirely smooth. Mrs. Peterson says it can be cumbersome -- and "boring" -- to use the smart-grid Web site to manage her home's energy use. She has to set more than a dozen data points just to get her bedroom temperature where she wants it through the week.

Her husband finds some of the online charts that track his home's energy use too abstract. "If I told you that today you saved four pounds...of carbon emissions, what does that mean to you?" he asks. He prefers when the software serves up analogies he can visualize: He's saved enough energy to microwave 9,550 frozen pizzas or to light a major-league ballgame for three innings."

The system, of course, was designed by engineers, right?

More Information:

If you click on the graphic below, you will link to an interactive graphic from the Wall Street Journal that gives a good visual overview of a house that is linked to the SmartGrid City:

The More You Know: A groundbreaking 'smart grid' test in Boulder, Colo., is delivering some surprises for both consumers and utilities Stephanie Simon, Wall Street Journal 2/9/09

"SmartGridCity is the nation's first fully integrated smart grid community and will boast the largest and densest concentration of these emerging technologies to date."
"The SmartGridCity Experience mobile exhibit is an educational tool that clearly shows why we embarked on this groundbreaking project. It conveys the benefits a smart grid-enabled future will bring to each of us in our quest to better meet growing energy demands, address environmental challenges, maximize available resources and optimize the entire energy system." - Xcel SmartGridCity website

More information from the Xcel website:

SmartHouse Graphic and Description (pdf)
"Xcel Energy's SmartGrid Consortium is imagining a future that would allow you to communicate your energy choices to the power grid and automatically receive electricity based on your personal needs".
  • Advanced sensors distributed throughout the grid and a high-speed communication network tie the entire system together
  • Smart Thermostat
  • Smart Appliances
  • Smart Meter
  • Plug-in Hybrid Electric Car
SmartGrid City Graphic and Description (pdf)
  • A dynamic system rich in information technology
  • High-speed, real-time, two-way communications
  • Sensors throughout the grid enabling rapid diagnosis and connections
  • Decision making data and support for peak efficiency
  • Distributed generation technologies (such as wind turbines, solar panels, and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles)
  • Automated "smart substations"
  • In-home energy control devices
  • Automated home energy use
SmartGrid City Video Library

Thanks to Akiba, from Freaklabs, for the links!

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