Sunday, February 20, 2011

Smart Homes

There is a new prototype for a smart home electric meter. Existing models can tell you what the differential price for electricity is at any given time and allow you to customize your usage (thermostat, running the washing machine, etc) accordingly.

But this one decides autonomously. When prices go up, it automatically changes the thermostat or delays the washer. Are you willing to give a computer that much control? I assume that the eventual product would allow you to set some basic preferences like the range of temperature you are willing to accept or how long you are willing to wait to wash your clothes.

There are some great applications of human factors design in creating this kind of preferences interface so that it is easy to use as well as effective in translating user preferences into system performance. The great thing is that it pays for itself in energy savings too.

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