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Homesense Final Report

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Homesense was an open research project that ran from 2010 to early 2011. It investigated whether we could design smart homes from the bottom up. This is the final report that outlines the process & findings.

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Homesense Final Report

  1. 1. HOMESENSEGeorgina Voss & Alexandra Deschamps-SonsinoDecember 2011With the kind support of
  2. 2. ContentsIntroductionProject Background1. Objectives 1.1 Relevance of the project 1.2 Concept of the project 1.3 Research design 1.4 Users and innovation2. Methods 2.1 Expertise and locality 2.2 Experts, relationships & proximity 2.3 Toolkit 2.4 Implementation 2.5 Data gathering3. Findings 3.1 Making things 3.1.1 Areas of design 3.1.2 Energy concerns 3.2 The Home as a Lab 3.2.1. Physical limits of a house 3.2.2. Impact of geographic location 3.2.3. Starting small 3.2.4. House as a workplace 3.2.5. Houses and neighbors 3.2.6. Toolkit usage and extension 3.3 Challenges 3.3.1. Project failures 3.3.2. Self-reporting & stage fright 3.3.3. Reporting to Tinker 3.3.4. Household & expert relationships 3.3.5 Partnerships 3.4 Methodology 3.4.1. Open research 3.4.2. Selection process 3.4.3. TimingsConclusionReferencesAppendix 1: Press coverage & conferencesAppendix 2: Project assetsAppendix 3: Project team2
  3. 3. IntroductionThe role of this report is twofold. Firstly, it will introduce Homesense as a project and reporton its process and findings. The second goal is to document a 2 year learning process andpropose steps for improvement should this experiment be undertaken again.Sections 1 and 2 provide a short overview of the literature on user innovation and livedexperiences. This provides an important contextual background to the research methodsused and evaluated in later chapters.Section 3 focuses on the implementation and evaluation of the open research methods used.It describes in more detail the research methodology used, and the success and challengesof various aspects of it including: the use of hardware toolkits, the relationships built betweenhouseholds and ʻlead usersʼ, issues around self-reporting and open research, and otherfacets of the research design. In ʻConclusionsʼ we summarise our findings.The project would not have been possible without the generous support of EDF R&D and theactive enthusiasm of Charles Delalonde and Edouard Sierkieski. The leadership of Dr.Georgina Voss made this project happen even in the strangest of situations and for that I ameternally grateful. Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino Principal of designswarm (Former CEO of Tinker London)3
  4. 4. Project BackgroundThe Homesense project was an open research project around the topic of bottom-up smarthomes initiated by Tinker London. In mid-2009, founder Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsinowrote a blog post highlighting what the opportunities were for a large-scale open sourceinterrogation of the “smart home” concept. Often explored in closed R&D environments, itwas possible to think of the results being more relevant and accurate if the participants couldbuild their own solutions to their problems rather than operating under the assumption thatmost people would accept top-down design. An existing relationship with EDF R&D viaArduino workshops led to a sponsorship from EDF R&D for 50% of the projectʼs value (£58Kor so at the time). Partners in the project also included two PhD students from the HighWiregroup at Lancaster University, Natasha Carolan and Richard Wood who helped design thepackaging for the tools available to users in this experiment. The project was eventuallywrapped in mid-2011 and technical tools featured at the New York Museum of Modern Artʼsexhibition on smart objects: Talk to Me. The project was featured online, on radio and in printthroughout the project. Academic outputs are currently being developed from the project byGeorgina Voss.4
  5. 5. 1. ObjectivesHomesenseʼs primary research objectives were:- To examine what the user-led design and innovation practices which occur within a domestic setting can tell us about energy behaviours.- To explore the success and challenges of bringing the open collaborative methods of online communities to physical infrastructures in the home.The Homesense project examined how users and households can design their own ʻsmartʼinteractive technologies based around their own specific lived experience, and the insightsthat this gives into domestic energy behaviours. The project also explored the success ofʻopenʼ research methods, and the use of toolkits and co-located ʻlead userʼ expertise inenabling this design.To answer the research objectives, a methodology was constructed encompassing threemain empirical approaches within an inductive research framework:- Recruitment of 6 ʻhouseholdsʼ and 8 co-located ʻexpertsʼ across Europe.- Provision of a “Homesense Kit” made up of open source hardware technologies.- Support from a local ʻlead userʼ throughout the research process.- Ethnographic observations and self-reporting from households using a project blog, videos, and picture sharing online.The main theoretical and empirical innovation of this project is the combination of thetheoretical perspectives on user innovation, tool-kits and lead user expertise with domesticenergy behaviors. An important aspect of the research is to consider how the physicalstructure and location of the home environment shapes design activities and subsequentenergy behaviours. For example, access to a roof garden or space makes installing solarpanels easier than if someone lives in a ground floor apartment. Access to a garden mightmake people think of design opportunities related to water usage that would never occur tosomeone living in a high-rise apartment.1.1 Relevance of the projectOver a third of UK carbon emissions come from usersʼ private travel and household energyuse (Ockwell et al 2010). Public awareness of climate change and carbon emissions is notlinked to personal behavior, yet people are more willing to change their energy behavioursaround the home than around travel (Coulter and Clegg 2007).Part of what the Homesense project focused on was the design capabilities and energybehaviours of end consumers. Much of the research around energy consumption focuses onthe home. The domestic context of the home is critical in shaping energy behaviours andincludes:- Physical infrastructures (McKensie-Mohr 1994) and tenureship of dwelling (eg. Rented, owned).- Lifestyle choices and past behaviours (Kollmus and Agyeman 2004)- Technical changes, such as changes in arrangements in home energy systems (Druckman and Jackson 2008).- Household income and levels of disposable income.5
  6. 6. - Household composition, including the number and age of inhabitants and relationships between them (eg, family members, housemates).- Household energy use is related to different factors to energy savings. Energy use is related to socio-demographic variables, whereas energy savings are related to psychological factors. Contextual factors therefore shape opportunities for energy consumption, whereas reductions in energy use requires conscious efforts to change behavior (Abrahamse and Stegg 2009).- Domestic technological interventions can shape consumer activity around energy use, including the use of smart meters and the adoption of technologies such as solar power systems (Faiers and Neame 2006).This last point has particular relevance for the project. Whilst we are aware of how top-downinterventions shape user behavior, we know less about how consumers may wish to developtheir own technological interventions which are unique to their own home environment,rather than engaging with pre-built systems. Yet all encompassing ʻsmart homeʼtechnologies fail because they use top-down approaches which treat the home as a closedsocial and technical system. The user-led innovation research describes how users make,modify and ʻhackʼ their own technologies according to their needs (von Hippel 2005). Userinnovation has been seen in physical technologies such as medical equipment (Lettl et al2006), and takes place in open collaborative innovation communities such as thosedeveloping open source software (Lakhani and von Hippel 2003). However, recent researchindicates that the most common site for user-led innovation activities is the home (Flowers etal 2010). The Homesense research project therefore explored the connection between how usersdesign and live with technologies according to their own domestic lived experience, and theinsights that this gives us into their own energy behaviours and adaptations. The project alsoexplored the successes and challenges of implementing the open collaborative methods ofuser-led design in a physical and personal domestic setting. In order for policymakers andenergy providers to reach and design for end users and consumers more effectively, weneed to know more about the shaping of technologies within a domestic space. 1.2 Concept of the project The Homesense project was designed to investigate citizen-led design of reactive and interactive technologies in domestic spaces by bringing the open collaboration methods to physical infrastructures in the home. The project was developed in response to perceived failings in the development of ʻsmartʼ domestic technologies to date which have been seen to predominantly adopt top-down approaches, treating the home as a closed social and technological system (Aldrich 2003). The aim was to explore how better scenarios could develop if users were able to develop products according to their specific needs, social contexts and lifestyles. To facilitate these user-led innovation practices, the research methodology was developed around two key facets from the user innovation literature – the role of ʻlead userʼ expertise and the use of toolkits in the innovation process. Members of six households across Europe were provided with the tools and resources to build ʻsmartʻ interactive technologies suited to their own domestic lived experience, through a physical ʻtoolkitʼ and a co-located expert. Using these resources, they designed, prototyped, tested and built their own domestic technological interventions based around their own lived experience, over a 4-6 month ʻlive phaseʼ.6
  7. 7. 1.3 Research design The empirical design of the project followed five stages: - Developing an empirical and theoretical framework drawing on the literature on user- led innovation and design. - Recruiting six diverse households and co-located experts from across Europe. - Designing and developing a kit of open source hardware tools. - Training households with the kit and introducing them to their expert before a 4-6 month ʻlive phaseʼ in which households designed and developed their own technological interventions. Material was collected through site visits, face to face and phone interviews, photos, videos and blog entries. - Data analysis, integrating theoretical frameworks with empirical material to provide insights into user energy behaviors within a domestic context. 1.4 Users and innovation Users of technologies are playing an increasingly important and active role in their design, diffusion, and adoption. Designs fail to gain approval and acceptance when designers have insufficient knowledge about people, their capacities, needs and desires (Redstrom 2006), and the most successful innovating firms are those who have close relationships with the users of their products and services (Rothwell et al 1974). A more active role for the design and development of new technologies has been observed over the past three decades across interdisciplinary research (eg Sanders and Sanders 2008, Ourdshoorn and Pinch 2005, von Hippel 2005). Whilst increased user involvement has been facilitated by digital and online technologies there is a long-standing tradition of user engagement in design and innovation activities which should not be considered to be recent or novel (Voss 2010). In design studies, conceptions of collaboration between users and professional designers in ʻdesign as an activityʼ are complex. Different theorists have used different names to describe and classify these activities, include participatory design, co-design, collaborative design, meta design, user-centred and user-led design. They vary according to the level of user engagement, from user-as-subject to user-as-partner (Sanders and Sanders 2008). ʻParticipatory designʼ processes facilitate the active involvement of the people being designed for, and other stakeholders in the design process. Here, ʻusersʼ become active participants in the design process, blurring the boundary between ʻdesignerʼ and ʻuserʼ (Luck 2003) and questioning the role of ʻdesigner as expertʼ. Whilst design literatures have focused on design as ʻpurposeful activityʼ with a goal to make something to be used by someone else (Reich et al 1996) innovation studies have framed the activities within an economic context, examining the role of firms, the nature of the market, and the necessity of tacit and codified knowledge resources for innovation. The work on user-led innovation describes how individuals, communities and firms develop products and services for their own use (rather than commercial sale in the first instance) based around knowledge of their own needs and experience, and of the means to provide solutions to those needs (von Hippel 2005). In contrast to the design literatures the user here is emphatically a partner, collaborator or even sole inventor/developer of their own innovations. Users are seen to hold ʻstickyʼ information about their own needs and preferences which is costly to transfer, making it possible for users to innovate at low costs compared to manufacturers (von Hippel 1994). The level of user engagement varies according to need, experience, capabilities and access, with involvement ranging from feedback and support to the full creation of novel products (Flowers et al 2008). The level of engagement is also be shaped by the scale and control of the project. In large-scale7
  8. 8. community design of urban spaces, users are expected to take a less active role, participating in the design process through public meetings and workshops (Toker 2007). Large innovation projects around software are supported through online platforms (which may be provided by firms) and libraries of content, and self-organised communities of individual users (Jeppesen and Fredericksen 2006). User-led innovation activities have predominantly been located within communities of practice around professions, extra-curricular activities, and consumer products. Yet recent research indicates that the most common site of user-led innovation is the home (von Hippel et al 2010). However, these interventions do not appear to centre around the ʻsmartʼ technologies of pervasive computing (eg. Microcontrollers) but instead around existing artefacts (eg. Cars). Thom-Santinelli (2007) raises concerns that current approaches to urban design and deployment focus on the same privileged groups that designers themselves are a part of, potentially leading to digital and material divides between the prosperous and the less prosperous. The user innovation and participatory design approaches offer useful rubrics for examining how technological interventions can be created by the people that will ultimately use them.8
  9. 9. 2. Methods2.1 Expertise and localityThe location of user-led innovation and design activities is critical. When designing awayfrom the domestic space, designers of consumer technologies bring a reconstructed versionof the domestic world into the company. Work to date on the role ʻsmartʼ interactivetechnologies into domestic environments has taken a top-down approach in whichtechnologies are introduced into home for participants to react against, rather than beingdeveloped by the household occupants themselves (Mayra et al 2006). To overcome theseissues around artificial test environments, and separation between the spaces of design theinnovation process was designed to take place by participants within their own householdsover an extended period of time. This allowed participants to design, test, prototype and usetechnologies within the domestic spaces in which they lived (and sometimes worked). This isparticularly important in domestic design as users are likely to live in their houses forextended time periods and engage with the artifacts within them over a longer time periodthan in other settings such as hospitals or workplaces. Table 1: Households accepted to second round of selection process Location Background and reasons for wanting to join (selected comments) UK A victorian cottage with garden, 3 kids, some tech already installed Berlin, Germany Head of design research conference Paris, FR I am a very curious person and I love new technology. I work in communication and I am really interested in how high technology change the way we relate with our community (family, friends, social community, etc.). Bures sur Yvette, To be able to manage my energy consumption as well as possible. FR To give sense to my daily objects in order to profit from an experiment social with them and to facilitate the daily organization with 5 person. London Over the last few months I have been following online, several amateur hackspaces. Tennessee - USA Very interested in Smart spaces, I am a head librarian and I am working to make my library as smart as possible. Derbyshire, UK We would relish the opportunity to work with an expert to sympathetically optimise the running of the house, from creating something like a solar-powered automated chicken coup management module to seasonal airflow management to rainwater and greywater collection and monitoring systems. Buckinghamshire, I have designed the network to all feed back to a central hub and UK hopefully future proof the house for years to come. I am keen on developing ways to monitor the house and follow #homecamp on Twitter Ormskirk, UK I would like to put forward my home for consideration. I have been working with the Arduino as a novice since Christmas and of course have all these wonderful ideas but little coding skill to really bring them to fruition.9
  10. 10. Domestic behaviours are shaped by household factors including composition (ie.Housemates, partners, children); tenure (ie. Rented, ownership); stock (ie. Old, new-build,apartment, house); and location (ie. Urban, suburban, rural, country) (Druckman and Jacksn2008).To examine a range of innovation behaviours, participants were selected for diversityof the above factors (see Tables 1, 2 and 3). Table 2: Rejected households (existing technological expertise, conflict of interest) Location Background and reasons for wanting to join (selected comments) Wiltshire, UK We are proposing to build a Smart Home / Village in Wiltshire. Lint, BE The reason why me, my partner and our home would like to participate is because were quite enthusiastic about new technology but do not have sufficient knowledge (or courage) to make things London, UK We have a 60s Wates house in Dulwich and are passionate about Smart/Digital Homes for both economic and ecological reasons Southampton, I have been a professional engineer. UK Camberley,UK interested in home automation and monitoring Paris, FR Im not at all a technical guy and Im very interested by this topic of smart home and got the chance to think a little bit about it when I was an intern in an Innovation department of a company working with Sensors Enschede, NL I think it would be great if we could make our flat a bit more hi-tech. Iʼve always dreamed of hooking up the washing machine and dryer to the internet, so it could remind you itʼs finished. Currently we have a pc with touch screen, were we organize our diners and log beer consumption. Paris, FR Im an interaction & service designer working on cross media projects for 13 years trying to stay focus on users needs and new type of interactions. I deeply beleive than the boundery between home usages and mobility usages is going to change because of devices capabilities and users skills. Home is a wonderfull playground to innovate and be really close to what users really needs. London, UK Iʼm a geek married to a luddite. Iʼm passionate about technology and the role it can have in making life easier, more fun and the positive impact it can have on our world. My wife likes simple things that look pretty.To be able to successfully innovate, users must hold solution information and manufactureinformation. Lead user theory describes how ʻlead usersʼ are more likely to possess relevantsolution information through search and integration of knowledge from different externalsources of relevance (Jeppesen and Laursen 2009). ʻLead usersʼ are therefore moreinnovative than other users with regard to new ideas, new applications, and new prototypesolutions (Morrison et al 2000) and also obtain significant benefits from innovating. They arelikely to have higher leading-edge status, in-house technical ability, and can be distinguished10
  11. 11. from non-innovating users (Morrison et al 2004). However, it is unclear how this technicalexpertise shapes outcomes of the innovation process itself as technologists have biases intheir working strategies (Blackwell et al 2009). Table 3: Final households that were selected Region Household type Composition London 1 Urban Apartment Couple (M, F), no children London 2 Urban Apartment Couple (M, F), one child (M) Paris Urban Apartment Single occupant (F) Geneva Urban Apartment Couple (M, F), no children Letterkenny Rural Semi-detached Two flatmates (M, M) house Manchester Suburban Semi-detached Couple (M, F), two children (M, F) house2.3 Experts, relationships and proximityTo limit these biases, households were deliberately selected with limited prior technologicalexperience around electronics; and each participating ʻhouseholdʼ was partnered with a localʻexpertʼ who had demonstrable prior technological expertise and initiative. This provided ameans of constructively combining the lived experience of the inhabitants of each specificdomestic space, with the technical expertise necessary to develop technologicalinterventions. Design is a social process in which certain factors and activities emergeincluding roles and relationships; planning; information gathering; concept generating; andconflict resolution (Cross and Cross 1995). Whilst it was both impossible and undesirable toprescribe and control these activities between all participants, roles were clearly defined forboth households and experts which were described during the recruitment process, and re-iterated during the training day. Households designed and built (to the best of their abilities)their technology projects; experts used their expertise to provide guidance around thefeasibility of the projects and built and coded relevant parts of the projects which werebeyond the capabilities of the households. ʻExpertsʼ were thus deliberately named as such toform their role in terms of the expert technical knowledge that they would bring to activelyshape and develop the projects, rather than simply as behind-the-scenes support – theyworked ʻhand-in-handʼ with the households to transfer technical and design know-how. Inthis sense, experts also acted as stewards for the technology itself (Wenger et al 2009)11
  12. 12. Table 4: Selected experts applications (selected comments) Location Reasons for wanting to join London, UK There are not many experiences that interest me more than working with people. I have found in my work this requires co- creation, collaborative methods and an ability to help a community Norway i would love to join your team! i dont really qualify, since i just started with arduino a while ago. The I would like to apply as an expert and as home for the homesense Netherlands project.In participatory design there needs to be a meaningful and productive relationship betweenʻthose charged with technology design, and those who must live with its consequencesʼ(Kensing and Blomberg 1998). Effective communication is a key part of this process(Gallivan and Keil 2003), not least in facilitating shared understanding of the projects. In therecruitment process, ʻexpertsʼ were deliberately chosen to be physically proximate to theirhouseholds. This co-location was intended to facilitate the development of a productive andcommunicative relationship between the household and the experts through the provision ofshared experience about the local urban environment, and also make it easier for bothparties to meet during the project2.4 ToolkitʻToolkitsʼ are co-ordinated sets of user-friendly design tools that enable customers todevelop new product innovations around their own specific needs (von Hippel and Katz2002); and have been well-studied as a means to facilitate heterogeneity in user innovationaround product design, and transfer design capabilities to users. Moussette (2010) reviews anumber of existing ʻtangible interaction toolkitsʼ which aim to democratize and simplifyprototyping activities by providing simplified access and control to low-level hardware andprogramming and embedded electronics.12
  13. 13. Figure 1. ʻResearchKitʼ toolkit and open source hardwareTo facilitate their activities each household was provided with a ʻResearchKitʼ (Figure 1) – anelectronics hardware toolkit consisting of components predominantly compatible with theʻArduinoʼ platform and a user guide. The toolkit was intended to make physical interactionand control easily appropriable. The user guide contained details about each of thecomponents in the kit, and examples of interactive devices that could be built using them,such as The Ambient Orb and the BakerTweet.The ResearchKit was built around the Arduino microcontroller to facilitate ease of use in non-technical households. The Arduino was developed to specifically cater to a non-technicalaudience by focusing on usability, thereby allowing users to ʻspend less time figuring out theinner workings and more time experimenting and discovering how it can be used in differentenvironments and scenariosʼ (Gibb 2010). Digital toolkits which constrain the design spaceare expanded by their users (Prugl and Schreier 2006) and it was anticipated that the openhardware nature of the ResearchKit would enable any further expansion by its users.Beyond usability, ʻArduinoʼ technologies were also deliberately selected due to their opensource nature. User involvement in open source software projects has been welldocumented (Franke and von Hippel 2003). By using open source technologies, it wasintended that households and ʻexpertsʼ would not be as constrained in their design activitiesas they would be if using proprietary hardware, but instead would be able to conductunrestricted prototyping and experimentation. The Arduino community also providesaccessible technology repositories (eg code, schematics) and online social forums forsupport and discussion of projects providing a further repository of support for households totap into.13
  14. 14. In addition to basic provision of technological components, the ResearchKit was alsodesigned to act as a ʻcultural probeʼ - a design-led approach to understanding users thatstresses empathy and engagement (Gaver et al 1999). This approach was adopted as itallowed households to participate in designing for the domestic space rather than simplyoccupying a role of user as subject (Carolan and Cruickshank 2011). As a probe, the kit wasdesigned to concomitantly elicit design inspiration for new domestic technologies and tomake explicit ʻsticky informationʼ to inform further ʻexpertʼ development and interaction in theparticipatory design process.2.5 ImplementationHouseholds and experts were self-selecting, recruited through press releases, word ofmouth and social networking sites (mainly Tinkerʼs blog, Arduinoʼs forums and Twitter).Households were selected first; experts were then selected based on proven technologicalexpertise via an online portfolio of work, and proximity to a suitable household.Each household engaged in a one-day training exercise in their homes prior to the start ofthe live phase of the project. This training day had multiple purposes. Firstly, the householdswere trained in the use of the Arduino-based technologies in the ResearchKit. Educationprovision allows users to engage more fully in participatory design projects, understandingthe issues involved and bridging the gap between their own language and the technicaljargon (Reich et al 1996). Following the technical training, each household was takenthrough ideation exercises to help them explore how they inhabited their homes, withquestions focusing on what users liked most and least about living in their homes, and howthey interacted with the outside world when at home. This led into the development ofscenarios about potential projects which households could build; scenarios can be useful inuser-centred design as means of presenting and situating solutions, illustrating alternativesolutions and identifying potential problems.In the final part of the training, households were introduced to their local ʻexpertsʼ. Theproject leaders facilitated a discussion about the earlier ideation exercise, and thehouseholds and experts co-developed three potential project ideas which they could buildover the live phase of the project. The day finished with each household and expertarranging when they would next meet to begin to develop projects.2.6 Data gatheringA multi-method ethnographic approach was used in data gathering. Information wascollected from each household in an ongoing manner over the course of the live phasethrough multiple means. Regular interviews were conducted with households and expertsover the course of the live phase. Where possible, these interviews were conducted as sitevisits to directly observe the projects in situ; and video interviews were also conducted viaSkype to provide similar visual and audio information.Households also self-reported their activities through photos, videos and short writtenreports, some of which were used as blog posts on the project website. Each household wasalso provided with a small video recorder and encouraged to make short films about theirprojects. In user-led design projects, effective participation requires continuous commitmentand engagement (Reich et al 1996). In order to facilitate the development of high-saliencehousehold technologies, the live phase for each household ran from 4-6 months. This was toallow sufficient time for users to meet with their experts; plan, design and develop severalprojects; and live with the technologies that they had made.14
  15. 15. 3. Findings3.1 Making things3.1.1.Areas of designProjects that were designed by household in the project included:(L) Pumpkin with different sounds & lights in its eyes depending whether a child had beennaughty or nice for Halloween. (completed)(R) Ways to turn the kettle on when they wake up in the morning. (not-completed)(L) ʻMarvin the Paranoid Androidʼ: a toy placed above the toilet with an embedded IR sensor.It senses if someone has been to the toilet and reminds them to put the lid down with a sternmessage. (completed)(R) A map which draws on data from the Barclays Cycle Hire scheme to indicate where thenearest free bike post was. (completed)15
  16. 16. - A way to remotely link the radio to the light switch. (not completed)(L) Light controller depending on the amount of daylight. (completed)(C) Sound visualization device. (not completed)(R) Mechanical plant-watering system (completed)(L) A coaster that reminds you to go have a tea break away from a screen once an hour.(completed)(R) A bin with a face that gets angry when you use it too much (which implies youʼre notrecycling enough) (completed)10 projects were completed over an average period of 5 months of interaction, whichincluded a slumber period of Christmas time.3.1.2 Energy behaviours “She seems particularly interested in the energy cycles of her living space. Forinstance, she expressed interest in visualizing the thermic exchanges in her living room,which lacks good thermic isolation because of its single-pane windows.”“They hope to learn the skills and get the kit that are needed to make their flat a smart one,solve a few problems in their everyday lives, and save some energy along the way.”16
  17. 17. “When I enter a room, I switch on the light and the radio switches on automatically and sinceI am very eco-friendly I switch off the light when I leave the room and so my radio switchesoffA lot of householdsʼ initial drive for experimentation was vocalized and driven by a themearound energy usage and measurement. Energy is often associated with “efficiency” in mind.However, the playful nature of the kit, and the difficulties encountered by some of the expertsduring the design process meant that “energy” was visualized very different ways.These designs inform us about conscious and unconscious energy behaviours. Severalprojects were primarily designed around daily cycles (when users come home, when userswake up, when users work), where energy use was a secondary consideration. This isillustrated by the design of motion activated and timer-based projects. These indicate thatusers have embedded energy-related behaviours, desires and needs which are so well-trodden that they cannot necessarily be articulated; however, users are able to designaround them.Solutions to energy and environmental issues can depend on meaning imbued in objects(eg. Letterkennyʼs angry bin in playful precisely because it is used by a household of youngmale flatmates). The anthropomorphisation of objects is relevant to the user in the same waythat ʻMarvinʼ is a relevant interface for a household with a child. The behaviours aroundthese personal solutions are a powerful ways to interact with conceptualisations aroundʻenergyʼ.Four households were also provided with EDF energy monitors to play with in the finalweeks of the project. There is also a cognitive difference between being provided with a fullyfunctional object (eg an energy monitor), and with being provided with a set of tools. Theopen-ness of the exercise suffered at the hand of finalised product design. It might bedesirable to consider packaging the energy monitor in a way that makes it fit with anothertoolkit, in terms of interactions and learning processes. For example, a documentationprocess of integration between energy monitors and the ʻArduinoʼ platform might be useful.Integrating energy monitors early on in the project would have allowed these initial energy-related desires to be addressed directly; however, as the monitors were introduced after theinitial planning phase, this proved an unsuccessful exercise.3.2 The Home as a Lab3.2.1. Local resourcesSeveral households extended their access to expertise, tools and materials beyond theboundaries of their house and the relationship with experts. Three households made use oflocal fabrication laboratory to extend the space for implementation and design solutions. Onehouseholds was also able to get 3D pieces prototypes at their workplace, extending thereach of tools available to them. One household developed relations with two further experts– a developer and a designer – to assist with the final stages of the BikeMap project.3.2.2 Geographic locationAs described earlier, the geographical proximity requirement meant that many suitablehouseholds applied but were not able to be partnered with a corresponding expert.3.2.3 Starting smallMany of the collaborations started with smaller experiments, partly to ʻease inʼ to the use ofunfamiliar technologies but also to test the working relationship between the household and17
  18. 18. the experts. It can be argued that the effectiveness of these initial projects shaped thesuccess (or otherwise) of the remainder of the live phase. For two households, the smallearly experiments did not lead to more robust projects to be built and tested.3.2.4 Home as a workplaceThe divisions, overlaps and delineations between ʻhomeʼ and ʻworkʼ are not clear whendigital technologies are present. The ʻflashing coasterʼ project was specifically developed toaddress issues around the designer working from his home computer for much of his work.This blurring of ʻworkʼ and ʻplayʼ challenges the expected type of devices found in the home– the problem would not exist if this designer didnʼt work from home but was forced tosocialize in an outside workplace. Does the home in itself create artificial problems whichhouseholds were trying to solve?3.2.5 Houses and neighboursHomes are often defined in relation to neighbours and neighbourhoods. The ʻsound detectorʼproject was built around concerns about the household activities being too loud forneighbours in the surrounding apartment complex. One household explained how they werealso limited in their designs as they also lived in a shared apartment block and were unableto safely trail wires down the shared stairwell. This presents interesting opportunities interms of infrastructure and defining where design can happen, and where a commoncommunal platform is needed.3.2.6 Toolkit usage and extensionMost of the households use a core subset of the components given in the ResearchKit. Mostpopular add-ons to the Arduino included buttons, LEDs, toggle switches, the Servo motor,and light sensors. The least favoured component was the bend sensor, which people wereafraid would break. With the basic kit, and with experts to help, all of the households werequick to expand on the functionalities offered either with new materials, or by buying newcomponents. One household spent several hundred Euro buying new components fromonline vendors including Sparkfun. Another also bought additional components for theirprojects, including a picture frame from Muji for the BikeMap. Even though some elementsremained untouched, we argue that a more basic and pared-down toolkit would have beeninsufficient to inspire people to find out what was easy to use and expand on, and whatwasnʼt.3.3 Challenges3.3.1. Project failuresSeveral projects were abandoned before completion. One household had planned to make adevice that would measure the amount of milk left in the fridge (by analysing the light levels)and then send a message to their phones telling them to buy more milk. However, thecomplexity of the process seemed too overwhelming and, in the process of design, theydecided that it would be easier to simply remember to buy milk rather than having to create aspecific gadget to do so. Other projects failed because of limitations in time and knowledge,such as the ʻnoise detectorʼ project. The whole process was however documented heavily bythe household and experts, showing that process was, for that household, as important asusers.3.3.2 Self-reporting and stage-frightThe ʻopen researchʼ nature of the research meant that some households experienced ʻstagefrightʼ and, contrary to their initial expectations for the project, found that they feltuncomfortable and shy about discussing their work in a public forum. Several households18
  19. 19. admitted in the private interviews that they did not feel that their work was impressiveenough to showcase, despite constant encouragement and emphasis that the designprocess was just as important as the final project outcomes.3.3.3 Reporting to Tinker LondonA lack of engagement in some of the households was due in part to the closure of TinkerLondon approximately halfway through the live phase. Related to issues of self-reporting,some households would promise outcomes (eg blog posts, etc) but would not deliver them.Distance did not seem to play a part: whilst it was easier to conduct interviews in person withmembers of the London households due to proximity, ongoing phone and Skype interviewswere successfully conducted with other households which were based further away.Successful engagement depended very much on how much households wanted to engageafter the initial excitement of the project had worn off and the activities of the live phase hadto be accommodated around their everyday lives.3.3.4 Household and expert relationshipsTwo of the household/expert relationships broke down over the course of the live phase. Inone instance the expert admitted that he had underestimated the work and time that wouldbe necessary, and did not feel that he had the time or skills. In the second case, the expertsimply stopped communicating with both the household and the Tinker team, so left theproject.3.3.5 PartnershipsThe initial project plan included the participation of a community manager and a datapartnership as we knew our small team would not be able to handle the volume of datacreated. GreenMonk was initially approached but that relationship failed to materialise andlack of time to engage beyond the core team meant that training, designing and running theproject was executed by 3-5 people all throughout the project. A slightly larger team wouldhave helped in supporting more directly the relationships between households and expertsand core team to address issues quickly.3.4 Methodology3.4.1. Open researchOpen research was not always an easy concept to communicate. For this project, we meantit to mean that Creative Commons applies to both the project process and outcomes with theintention of benefiting all parties. There were several motivations for this approach: • It made sense in a connected world. As advocates of open source hardware and software, we liked open dialogues and wanted to apply the same principles to shape a conversation around what we were doing. Digital social networking tools (eg. Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, etc) were used to follow the lead set around a similar time by IDEOʼs ʻOpen IDEOʼ project. • Building smart relationships Our partnership with EDF R&D was very important to us as we wanted to be able to transfer knowledge about design processes and implementation between a large organization with extensive experience of research and development around energy behaviours, and ourselves. Edouard Siekierski and Charles Delalonde really understood where the project needed to go, and were happy to let us lead the design and implementation conversation.19
  20. 20. • Social IP As a small team, patents were too costly for our resources. Opening the project enabled us to share the design and methodology processes, whilst placing our name on it. This was a form of IP we were able to invest in, and we were pleased to find a partner like EDF R&D to support us in this. • To allow us to learn A public project had significant risks associated with it – in particular the ʻcease and desistʼ engagement about use and ownership of the ʻHomesenseʼ brand with TK Maxx (now resolved) was a particular challenge. However, the widespread publicity which the project and its results received in industry, academic and community circles, as well as the projectsʼ presence at the Museum of Modern Art speaks volumes in favour of such an approach when the overall budget is low (less than £50k) and public returns are high.3.4.2. Selection processAlthough the selection of households proved very fruitful, the selection of experts provedmore problematic. We had assumed that as Tinker was engaged with communities aroundopen source hardware and hardware hacking, finding a variety of suitable experts would notbe difficult. This was far from the case. There may have been a perception that because ofthe involvement of EDF R&D, the project would be too corporate in scope and would exploitpeopleʼs expertise. Potential applicants may also have felt that the role of ʻexpertʼ was tooclose to their working lives and that they would have preferred to be involved as ʻhouseholdsʼ(and indeed many ʻhouseholdʼ applicants were rejected because they already had extensivetechnical capabilities). It is notable that several of the selected experts already had previousteaching experience, in addition to their technological expertise – this might indicate a traitthat would be useful in future research. Finally, it is also worth noting that lack ofcommitment to the project as the live phase progressed predominantly seemed to arise fromthe experts rather than the households, supporting our initial assumptions about the designcapabilities and personal investment of user communities.3.4.3. TimingsOur initial assumptions about the timing of the project were challenged over the live phase.Whilst the closing of Tinker London caused delays, every household also asked for extratime to continue the design process. The initial estimated time for the live phase for eachhousehold was 3 months, starting in September 2010. However, the average length of thelive phase for households was 5 months.20
  21. 21. ConclusionThe Homesense research project has provided us with a series of steep and challenginglearning curves. From the summit though there are several lessons to that we can take awayfor future work.Open research is possible, but needs to be balanced with the privacy concerns of theparticipants. Sharing code and schematics is fine, but sharing personal details is much moredelicate. Research which focuses on both the lived experience of participants and thetechnological interventions that they create must carefully balance how much is shared withthe wider world.Life in the home is understandably far more messy and complex than a stay in a test lab.What researchers gain from the richness of a ʻrealʼ domestic environment is traded againstthe chaos that is present in such spaces. We argue that such challenges are more thancompensated for by the complex data that comes from the home, but that future projectsshould definitely plan around these issues and be flexible in the amount of time offered toparticipants.Hardware toolkits and physical user-led design provides a plethora of insights into domesticbehaviours and potential energy patterns. Without prescriptive design briefs, users are ableto design the interventions imbued by the meanings of their own lived experience anddomestic environment rather than be constrained by imposed meanings of ʻenergyʼ andʻhomeʼ. These insights come from both the products that users create, but also theprocesses by which the design process happens - even ʻfailureʼ gives insights in this type ofwork.21
  22. 22. ReferencesAbrahamse W and Stegg L, 2009. How do socio-demographic and psychological factors relate to householdsdirect and indirect energy use and savings? Journal of Economic Psychology 30:5. 711-720.Aldrich F, 2003. Smart Homes: Past, present, future. In: Inside the Smart Home (ed Harper R). London: Springer-Verlag.Blackwell A, Rode J and Toye E, 2009. How do we program the home? Gender, attention investment and thepsychology of programming at home. International Journal of Human Computer Studies.Carolan N and Cruickshank L, 2011. Understanding Design Interventions in Democratic Innovation: a ToolkitApproach. Working Paper.Coulter A and Clegg S, 2007. Exploring public attitudes to personal carbon dioxide emission information. Reportto the Department of Transport.Cross N and Cross AC, 1995. Observations of teamwork and social processes in design. Design Studies 16.143-170.Druckman A and Jackson T, 2008. Household energy consumption in the UK: a highly geographically and socio-economically disaggregated model. Energy Policy 36. 3177-3192.Faiers A and Neame C, 2006. Consumer attitudes towards domestic solar power systems. Energy Policy 34:14.1797-1806.Flowers S, Mateos-Garcia J, Sapsed J, Nightingale P, Grantham A and Voss G, 2008. The New Inventors: Howusers are changing the rules of innovation. London: NESTA.Franke N and von Hippel E, 2003. Satisfying Heterogenous User Needs via Innovation Toolkits: The Case ofApache Security Software. Research Policy 32. 1199-1215.Gallivan M and Keil M, 2003. The user-development communication process: A critical case study. InformationSystems Journal 13. 37-68.Gaver B, Dunne T and Pacenti E, 1999. Design: cultural probes. Interactions 6. 21-29.Gibb A, 2010. New media, art, design, and the Arduino microcontroller: A malleable tool. Unpublished MScthesis, Pratt Institute.Hanzi M, 2007. Information technology as a tool for public participation in urban planning: a review ofexperiments and potential. Design Studies 28. 289-307.22
  23. 23. Jeppesen, L.B. and Frederiksen, L., 2006. Why do users contribute to firm-hosted user communities? The caseof computer-controlled music instruments. Organization Science 17. 45-64.Jeppesen LB and Laursen K, 2009. The role of lead users in knowledge sharing. Research Policy 38. 1582-1589.Kensing F and Blomberg J, 1998. Participatory Design: Issues and Concerns. Computer Supported Co-operativeWork 7. 167-185.Kollmuss, A and Agyeman, J, 2002. Mind the Gap: Why do people act environmentally and what are the barriersto pro-environmental behavior? Environmental Education Research 8. 239-260Lakhani KR and von Hippel E, 2003. How open source software works: "Free" user-to-user assistance. ResearchPolicy 32. 923-943Lettl C, Herstatt C, and Gemuenden H 2006. Usersʼ contributions to radical innovation: Evidence from four casesin the field of medical equipment technology. R&D Management 36. 251-272Luck R, 2003. Dialogue in participatory design. Design Studies 24. 523-535.Mayra F, Soronen A, Koskinen I, Kuusela K, Mikkonen J, Vanhala J and Zakrzewski M, 2006. Probing aproactive home: Challenges in researching and designing everyday smart environments. Human Technology 2.158-186.McKenzie-Mohr D, 1994. Social marketing for sustainability: The case of residential energy conservation. Futures26:2. 224-233Morrison, P.D., Roberts, J.H. and von Hippel, E., 2000. Determinants of user innovation and innovation sharing ina local market. Management Science 46. 1513–1527Morrison PD, Roberts J, and Midgely D, 2004. The nature of lead users and measurement of leading-edgestatus. Research Policy 33. 351-362.Moussette C, 2010. Tangible interaction toolkits for designers. Working paper: Umea University.Ockwell D, OʼNeill S and Whitmarsh L, 2010. Strong climate legislation and public behaviour change – the role ofcommunication. Sussex Energy Group briefing.Prugl R and Schreier M, 2006. Learning from leading-edge customers at The Sims: opening up the innovationprocess using toolkits. R&D Management 3. 237-250.Redstrom J, 2006. Towards user design? On the shift from object to user as the subject of design. DesignStudies 27. 123-139.23
  24. 24. Reich Y, Konda S, Monarch I, Levy S and Subrahmanian E, 1996. Varieties and issues of participation anddesign. Design Studies 17. 165-180.Rothwell R, Freeman C, Horlsey A, Jervis V, Robertson A and Townsend J, 1974. SAPPHO updated - projectSAPPHO phase II. Research Policy 3. 258-291.Sanders E and Stappers P, 2008. Co-Creation and the new landscapes of design. CoDesign 4. 5-18Thom-Santelli J, 2007. Mobile-Social Software: Facilitating serendipity or encouraging homogeneity? IEEEPervasive Computing 40.Toker Z, 2007. Recent trends in community design: the eminence of participation. Design Studies 28. 309-323von Hippel, E. and Katz, R., 2002. Shifting Innovation to Users via Toolkits. Management Science 48. 821–34.von Hippel, E. 1994. "Sticky Information" and the Locus of Problem Solving: Implications for Innovation.Management Science, 40. 429-439von Hippel E, 2005. Democratising Innovation. Cambridge MA: MIT Press.von Hippel E, de Jong J and Flowers S, 2010. Comparing Business and Household Sector Innovation inConsumer Products: Findings from a Representative Study in the UK. Working Paper.Voss G, 2010. The historical construction of user innovation. In ʻPerspectives on User Innovationʼ (eds Flowers Sand Henwood F). London: Imperial College Press.Wenger E, White N and Smith J, 2009. Digital Habits: Stewarding Technology for Communities. CPsquare.24
  25. 25. Appendix 1: Press coverage & conferencesRadioBBC Four Thought radio program, September 2011 Says SCAMP, UK Minibar, UK Cantine, Paris Hardware Summit 2010, NYC and Energy Hack Weekend, UK 3, UK Cities, Berlin France 11, Marseille the Connected Home, London, Cheltenham Design Seminar, UK
  26. 26. UCL Science and Technology Studies Seminar, UK Geographical Society Annual Conference, UK
  27. 27. Appendix 2: Project assetsProject websitewww.homesenseproject.comfrom 2012: 1 2 componentsQty Item LOGIC & POWER1 Arduino board1 USB cable1 Power supply1 Sensor shield1 Keyboard emulator10 Cable 20cm10 Cable 50cm10 Cable 100cm2 Magnet DIGITAL INPUTS2 Pushbutton2 Capacitive Touch Sensor1 Switch1 Tilt switch ANALOG INPUTS27
  28. 28. 1 Rotary Potentiometer1 Linear Potentiometer2 LDR1 Hall sensor1 Thermistor1 3-axis accelerometer1 Buzzer1 Bend sensor OUTPUTS4 LED red4 LED green4 LED yellow1 Text LCD2 Servo motor28
  29. 29. Appendix 3: Project teamGeorgina Voss, Research ManagerGeorgina is a Research Fellow in the Faculty of Arts, University of Brighton, and an HonoraryResearch Associate at the Science and Technology Studies Department, University College London.She managed the Homesense project from an organisational and academic point of view with Deschamps-Sonsino, InitiatorAlexandra Deschamps-Sonsino is a product designer, interaction designer & entrepreneur. Sheinitiated Homesense while CEO of Tinker London and now maintains it from Designswarm IndustriesLtd.alex@designswarm.comEdouard Siekierski, Project partner & researcherEdouard is an “internal innovation catalyst” in the open innovation team at EDF.edouard.siekierski@edf.frCharles Delalonde, Project partner & researcherCharles works with EDF R&D, where his research focuses on how a deeper understanding of socialnetworks improves information retrieval activities.delalonde@gmail.comDamaris Rodriguez, Web Design & Community ManagmentDamaris is an interaction designer and was involved in the design and creative production of theoriginial online content as well as layout of the Homesense manual.damaris.rfr@gmail.comDaniel Soltis, Training & Homesense kit designDaniel is an interaction Designer. He focuses on concept development, hardware and softwareprototyping. He was involved in training all the households & experts as well as designing theHomesense kit.danielrsoltis@gmail.comNatasha Carolan, Homesense kit design & user-centered researchNatasha is a PhD researcher and designer at HighWire Digital Economies Doctoral Training Centre atLancaster University.natashacarolan@me.comRichard Wood, Homesense kit design & user-centered researchRichard has been exploring my interests in mass creativity, democratised design, social networking,physicality and play.rt.wood@me.com29