Sierra

HCI Interaction Design Practice Final project
Challenge

The state of Indiana faces a unique set of challenges triggered by rapid environmental change. These challenges threaten the vitality of Hoosier businesses, agriculture, jobs, and physical well-being. The problem space centers around reducing the carbon footprint of large organizations or businesses. This relates to the IU Grand Challenge of Environmental Change, and to extreme weather events. We decided to focus on this area because climate changes and many extreme weather events occur as a result of global warming, which is caused by human activities. Working to reduce our collective carbon footprint will help reduce drastic climate changes and severe weather events. We further focused our problem space to energy consumption in larger infrastructures.

Objective

Our objective was to come up with a design solution that can help reducing the harm that is being caused to the environment by human activities.

Duration: October  - December 2017

Members: Parth Patel, Neha LNU, Kara Bougher, Zoe Pan

Role: Research on the pain points that currently exist for users to save energy in one form or the other, brainstorm for solutions and create a low fidelity prototype which can be tested with a sample set of users and creating high fidelity prototype based upon the feedback received during testing.

Research

Our team conducted primary and secondary research about environmental changes and their impact. We found that many of the recent extreme weather events have been results of global warming, which is caused by greenhouse gases. The midwest in particular produced 20% more emissions than the national average.

Based on our research, we moved forward with designing a computer-supported collaborative work (CSCW) solution that would help users in large groups, such as corporate offices, businesses, or large organizations, reduce their carbon footprint. We considered the types of limitations that could be associated this type of system, including upfront costs and connectivity. Smart devices would need to be installed, or the system would have to be connected through existing electrical circuits. However, the initial investment in an energy-saving, collaborative tool will lead to long-term savings on energy costs.

Prototyping and Evaluations

We designed a low-fidelity prototype using Balsamiq, and evaluated it by conducting cognitive walkthroughs. During the evaluations, we discovered that some interactions would be difficult for users, given that the interface is a large, wall-mounted screen. For example, a back button located at the top of the screen would likely be difficult to reach. We also discovered some difficulties with the organization and flow of the menus, such as certain device controls being placed into a category called “other” with little to no explanation about what “other” meant. Based on these findings, we made appropriate changes to the design in our high-fidelity prototype.

Link to the high fidelity prototype.

Persona 1

Solution

Persona 2

  • Sierra Energy Tracker is a large-scale display designed to track and save energy in offices, places of business, and other organizations.

  • Energy usage is tracked and displayed in real-time, and displayed on the screen with eye-catching, easily interpreted data visualizations.

  • Sierra also serves as a central hub, allowing control over your space’s lights, temperature, electronic devices, and appliances.

  • When your energy consumption is higher than ideal, it is quick and easy to reduce usage right from the interactive, touch-screen display.

  • Sierra helps organizations and businesses save energy, reduce their carbon footprint, and ultimately lower their energy costs.

Main Screen of the system

Central control of devices and appliances

Fine tune the amount of light

Customize lighting options for every room, area and cubicle

Control the room temperature

Remotely control devices that are located in other rooms

View and compare statistics about energy consumption with other floors

Report issues of malfunctioning appliances to prevent energy wastage

High fidelity prototype interaction on a large screen

Findings
  • The overall response from the participants was positive, but the design requires changes before it can fulfill its purpose, which is to motivate users to reduce their carbon footprint.

  • Upon completion of this project, I learned that topics like these require gaining an understanding of the users' perspectives in a way that I was not aware of before. Getting to know their needs, the issues​ that they deal with and the lack of knowledge about such energy management devices highlighted the requirement of introducing systems like Sierra in the industry. 

  • Thinking about administrative access is very necessary when it comes to designing public systems in order to prevent misuse of the systems.