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UX for connected heating: Cleanweb 21.01.14


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Brief talk on connected heating UX from Cleanweb London, Jan 2014.

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UX for connected heating: Cleanweb 21.01.14

  1. 1. UX challenges in connected heating Cleanweb Dec 2013 Claire Rowland/@clurr photo by images of money Wednesday, 22 January 14 I'm Claire. I'm a UX researcher and designer from a psychology background.  Past few years I’ve been working in UX for internet of things and connected homes, most recently at AlertMe on heating systems, energy monitoring, security, safety and general home automation. I'm here in my own capacity and opinions are my own. My interest: IoT products and services that do everyday things and are useful, usable and pleasurable to use for the mass market consumer. This talk is about some things I learned doing design and user research in connected heating.
  2. 2. Wednesday, 22 January 14 To most people, heating is boring as long as it’s working. As a bunch of people interested in environmental issues, I’m sure you all understand that it’s the single biggest area of domestic energy usage, by a long way, in a climate like ours. That makes it a prime target for energy saving measures: whether through changing the systems, changing our behaviours around heating, or changing our homes (which in this country are mostly not very energy efficient). We’re seeing a bunch of new systems coming out that attempt to address this through remote control and intelligence. I’m interested in how we can improve the way we use heating and save energy, without drastic behavioural changes that leave us shivering in the dark and having cold showers. To that end, I’ve spent some time looking at how people understand heating, and how we might redesign it.
  3. 3. Most people understand their heating systems about as well as this guy does Wednesday, 22 January 14 story.html#axzz2Nod8uQoU
  4. 4. “When it’s cold you need to turn up the thermostat.” Wednesday, 22 January 14 A thermostat is an automatic switch. Most people treat it like a valve: turn up dial, get more heat, faster. This is wrong.
  5. 5. “My thermostat is too confusing to use so when I want to turn the heating up I put it in the fridge.” Wednesday, 22 January 14 This research participant made everyone laugh, but this is actually a very intelligent hack. She did understand how a thermostat worked.
  6. 6. We aren’t rational “Brr, the radiator’s off” “Turn it down a bit” “Cold again!” “Open a window?” Wednesday, 22 January 14 We often turn heating up, down, and up and down again, wasting lots of energy. We perceive falls in temperature more readily than rises.
  7. 7. ..and we have different comfort levels 21 °C 19 °C Wednesday, 22 January 14 When you give people connected systems with their own personal controls (e.g. via more than one smartphone), differences of opinion are surfaced :)
  8. 8. “Intelligent” heating: presence Motion, light, manual adjustments Mobile location Electrical activity above baseload Wednesday, 22 January 14 What promises to be intelligence? Mostly to do with knowing when you’re in and out, and preemptively adjusting the heating accordingly. Nest: presence based on motion and light sensors on-device and manual adjustments Tado: presence based on mobile location Wattbox (not out of prototype): presence based on electricity usage over baseload
  9. 9. Acting on presence can be hard “I want to come home to a warm house” Warm air system: turn it on when I get home Central heating: plan ahead, calculating how long house takes to heat up based on efficiency of heating system and home’s size, layout and insulation photo by michael of scott Wednesday, 22 January 14
  10. 10. What users need to understand •How warm is it inside now? •How warm is it meant to be? •Is there a difference? •Is that a problem? •Should I change anything? And also: •You act on the target, not the actual temperature (sounds obvious, but to many people it isn’t) Wednesday, 22 January 14 What users need to understand from a control: how warm is it inside now, how warm is it meant to be and if there is a difference is that a problem? (it’s a problem if the heating came on 4 hours ago and is way below target and not rising. it’s not a problem if it’s freezing outside and the heating only just came on and it’s rising). Also, what’s current state of system: schedule phase etc. If I’m not happy with the current temperature, do I need to act or is the system already working to get the temperature to where I want it to be?
  11. 11. Hot water systems are also misunderstood Mental model is full/empty tank BUT the tank is always full, just fully heated or not fully heated Wednesday, 22 January 14 Hot water is also more complex to design for than you’d think: mental model is full/empty tank. BUT the tank is always full, just fully heated or not fully heated.
  12. 12. The sort of thing people actually care about: Can I wash my hair right now? 20 minutes to eeek! Wednesday, 22 January 14
  13. 13. Connectedness requires users to understand system models • What’s this mystery box? • Why is my heating system telling me the internet is down? • Is that 6pm at home or where I am now? Wednesday, 22 January 14 Connected heating may promise to make things simpler, with simpler controls, but also adds in additional complexity. There are these other bits. What do they DO? The hub is a mysterious box to many people. Why does the heating system email me when the internet is down? Does that mean it’s not working? (actually it is, in this case the alerts are sent because some users also have a security system running on same platform which is dependent on the internet connection). And is that 4pm in the UK where my home is, or the US, where my phone is right now? In order to understand and predict the behaviour of this heating system, you need to know a bit more about the system model. If i’m a user of a common or garden website, i don’t have to engage with the system model. This is why the web is consumer friendly in a way that gopher was not. There are advantages from having a connected system, but however well the individual device UIs are designed, there are new things to go wrong and an extra layer of stuff to be confused about.
  14. 14. Continuity can be a challenge... !!possible 2 minute delay!! Wednesday, 22 January 14 A lot of the knottiest design problems I’ve run into in my work are continuity challenges. It sounds obvious: If i interact with the service on one device, I would expect all other devices reflect that change in state. e.g. if I turn the target heating temperature up on my wall thermostat, you’d expect the new temperature to be immediately reflected on the smartphone too. But sometimes this isn’t technically possible. In the case of the AlertMe system, there can be a delay of up to two minutes before the smartphone app is updated. This is because the wall thermostat runs off a battery, and sending data to the network uses a lot of power so it only does it every two minutes. If it sent it more frequently than that, it would run the battery down very fast. Mains powered controllers would get around this, but engineers don’t like those in this country as they are more complicated to install. Nest don’t have this issue in the US as controllers are mains powered so can run wifi and be constantly connected. But it remains to be seen how this will translate to the UK market. The important thing is to ensure that users are as informed as possible about what’s going on.
  15. 15. Thank you @clurr Thanks to Colin Chapman for introducing me to many of the issues around connected heating Wednesday, 22 January 14