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.
To achieve an increased awareness of electricity use in households, the concept of kilowatt hours (kWh) is essential. The project consortium has specifically noticed that this concept can be hard to grasp to household consumer, and developed the new ambient interface Watt-Lite Twist to meet this challenge. The interface is using the same type of technology as the
game-inspired mobile application Energy Life including an innovative sensing platform of miniaturised and wireless sensing devices and a base station connected to the household electric devices. The interface acts as a supporting complement to the other services from the projects, but providing more detailed information on the actual consumption that the other ambient interface, the Light Ambient Interface (LAIT) system.
This home-based system is intended for consumption measuring, and the tool itself resembles a large flashlight (310 mm high and 120 mm in diameter) projecting consumption progress during a set measurement period. The user activates the tool by twisting the front of the torch, winding it up like an egg-clock, to the desired kilowatt-hours of consumption within the range of 0.1 to 2 kWh. The set amount of kWh is represented by a white circle projected by the torch. The torch is wirelessly connected to the household electronic devices, indicating and projecting consumption progress. To provide the user with knowledge of the kWh concept, the white circle disappears as electricity is consumed. When the target amount of kWh has been consumed, the circle completely disappears, leaving a darkened shadow of a circle instead. An audio signal is given, and the projection displays information of how long time it took to and how much energy was consumed at the time of reaching the set target. Also, a breakdown of the electricity consumption by device during the measuring period is projected when the user flicks a switch on the torch, visualised in a pie chart with different colours corresponding to the measurements of the different sensing devices connected to the appliances of the system.
The centrepiece of the torch-like tool is a light-weight computation unit: The Dingoo, which is a hand-held game console modified with a Linux solution for embedded devices. It registers movement of the front of the tool, sending a signal for visual presentation. Information on the household electricity consumption is obtained from the different electrical appliances and devices in the home, connected to sensors and to the household base stations. In turn, the base station is communicating information to the tool via a Bluetooth connection. A small built- in laser projector gives the visual presentation of the information from the system. A prototype of the tool has been developed and tested in households in Finland and Sweden during the project. Thus, the technology readiness level of the applications is estimated to be 9 on the TRL scale.