Authors: Nafees Ahmed, Klaus Mueller
Abstract: The increasing popularity of monitoring devices for household energy consumption, also known as smart meters, is providing consumers with unprecedented opportunities for understanding and modifying their use of energy. However, the lack of effective visual analysis tools has been a significant obstacle towards wide adaptation and application of this concept. We have been interested in understanding what kind of visual interface might be appropriate for these purposes, particularly keeping in mind that the complexity of this interface should not hamper the usability of the overall system. Throughout this effort we worked with real household data, collected over a period of more than a year, and in close collaboration with consumer experts of a large local utility company. Based on their continued feedback we designed what we call the EnergyScout ”“ a dashboard with a versatile set of highly interactive visual tools by which consumers can understand the energy consumption of their household devices, discover the impact of their usage patterns, compare with usage patterns of the past, and see via what-if analyses what effects a modification of these patterns may have, also in the context of modulated incentivized pricing. An important feature of EnergyScout is also that it allows consumers to visualize and annotate their time-series energy data in the context of other temporal information, such as outside temperature, weather, and personal and social events which all could explain certain usage patterns and help motivate a modification of behavior. Throughout development, we placed great emphasis on making EnergyScout a playful interface that doubles as an awareness and educational tool. We tested our system with various groups of people with households and energy bill responsibilities in order to see if our design can actually make any impact.