Through a multidisciplinary research approach, a number of solutions to motivate and empower citizens to become active energy consumers have been developed within the framework of the project. The aim is to develop services for conserving electricity within households, with the goal of reducing the domestic power consumption by 15% via a number of damage-reducing techniques. The project has been partially funded by the European Commission under the 7th framework programme (FP7), a grant funding programme, and will come to an end during 2012.
The Light Ambient Interface (LAIT) system is based on visual signals sent to the user. Lamps in the household can be connected to the interface and indicate whether the individual conservation target is being met or not when switched on by the users. If the household is on target, the lamp will be lit in a normal manner. However, if the household is not meeting its target, the light will slowly fade up until it is fully lit. A similar indication is sent from Energy Life, the game-inspired mobile application developed in the same project, varying the lighting of the display of the user’s smart-phone in the same manner. A supporting ambient interface called the Watt-Lite Twist has also been developed within the project, designed to visualize the electricity consumption in a more detailed and less abstract way.
This light-based consumption measuring system consists of a base station, an interface and connected lamps within the household. Information about the electricity conservation target and the actual electricity consumption lies in the base station, obtained from an innovative sensing platform placed in the home. Upon request (when the user turns on the lamp switch on the wall) the information is passed on from the base station to the interface, instructing the lamp in question how to light up.
The potential for using the interface in other applications is high, especially for visual feedback within the area of electricity and energy awareness. For instance, the system would be suitable for identifying and visualising the effect (in Watts) used in the household. The purpose for this would be showing the status for the grid in real time, which is increasingly important as the role of individual households in the energy system is changing from being a passive consumer to a more active player interacting with the grid.
The project consortium consists of universities, institutes and companies from Finland, Sweden and Italy, all contributing with valuable knowledge from their field: Information technology, electrical engineering and psychology have been mixed to achieve the results. A prototype of the interface has been developed and successfully tested within the project. Thus, the technology readiness level of the interface system is estimated to be 9 on the TRL scale.