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Making energy consumption smarter

Project skills: Arduino, Internet of Things, REST API

Industry Hack is a company organizing events aiming at disrupting big industry leaders with the help of volunteers over a weekend. This was a hack for Nokia and Fortum. The first one being the world-famous tech company, and the latter a big Finnish energy player. The brief was pretty open, only aiming to find ways to make energy consumption more engaging and smarter.

This was my second industry hack, after winning the Iittala hackathon a few months before. This time again, I was part of the event with a multidisciplinary team - an engineer (me), a designer and a business person - according to my personal belief as to what makes a team successful and interesting. We got third place, out of fifteen teams.

We started by narrowing down the reasons why energy was currently not engaging or interesting to most people, while it was such of crucial importance.

After identifying several factors explaining why the situation was what it is, we decided to focus on what seemed the root for us. Namely that people in our society didn't feel involved by energy consumption as it felt unlimited and without any consequences - at least on an individual level.

Indeed, solutions to help saving energies are widely available - for example in the form of power-efficient material or smart monitoring devices. But most people are still not actively trying to have a responsible consumption. This is why we decided not to try and design yet another tool helping people be energy friendly, but rather try to make energy more tangible. The hope was that by bringing consciousness to people, they would finally get some idea of what energy is and of their consumption. From there, it's only a step for people to realize that there is indeed a problem, and that they should try and improve their behavior. Not because they are told to, but because it makes sense to them.

Fortum & Nokia Hack

Our team mostly designed a wearable that would serve two main functions. First, it showed in real time to the user the energy consumption around him/her, subtly underlining situations where energy is invisibly wasted in their daily lives. Second, it acted as an energy counter, for which the user could set goals and see how much they consumed on a given day. This would enable the user to monitor their behavior as well as a gamification approach by introducing competitions with friends for example.

Fortum & Nokia hack - presentation

I was once again mostly responsible of the implementation of our prototype. The final device was an Arduino and a WiFi Shield, communicating with a REST API linked to sensors installed in the hack's premises. It could thus detect changes in the environment and reflect those changes through the color of an LED. I then taped the prototype to my chest, with all the electronics hidden under my clothes for the final pitching session.

Fortum & Nokia Hack - prototype

This concept was imagined in a near-future world, where all appliances, and objects are connected or embedded with RFIDs, and the wearable could get actual real-time data everywhere the user goes.