Folks. Folks. Folks. Folks…. I built an Android app!
Again, I’m designing for simplicity and for a focus on user experience, as well as trying to solve the problems that people in the industry are concerned about. This translates to 1) something that communicates at a glance 2) time-of-use prices for electricity consumption in Ontario (how expensive your electricity is now). So, I created an Android widget that sits on your homescreen and shows time-of-use through stop light colours. Red, Yellow, Green. Doesn’t take up much room. It’s that simple. It will end up looking like this:
Yup, just that tiny little lighting bolt.
I’d love it if you would consider testing it. Let me know how it goes:
I’ve been developing a couple apps that work with Ontario’s new Green Button API roll out, which will consist of multiple utilities across the province securely allowing third party software to interact with a homeowner’s residential electricity consumption data. What it means to the average person is soon you will have a lot of fancy apps available to you that will visualize and explain your own electricity consumption. Neat!
Of course, I want to see the most possible people and groups make use of this fancy new tool. So, I made the code I wrote to connect with the API available for free at [ https://github.com/bianca/ontariogreenbuttonincodeigniter ]. This code is an extension for PHP’s Codeigniter framework. If you are trying to develop a tool yourself (in any language) and you’d like help, let me know!
So, I competed in the MaRS Energy Hackathon over the weekend. I was fortunate enough to form a team with Lucy Lin and Erich Welz, and we were fortunate enough to be awarded the Pivot Design Group UX Award!
Our project came out of some really great preliminary discussions Lucy, Erich, and I had about communicating sustainability to the public. The product, Energy Tipper, simplified Green Button data to the average person by engaging people with humor and not bombarding them with numbers and figures. I loved this project because we made some very concrete contributions on strategies to reach people who are tired of hearing about energy efficiency and climate change. Communicating sustainability to the public requires new ideas that really account for the way people work, and I think we came up with a great idea.
Energy Tipper is a mobile application that 1) tells the homeowner whether this is a bad time or good time to use electricity based on utility electricity prices 2) gives them a mischievous tip as part of a meme graphic based on the previous day’s energy consumption for their house. Some example screenshots and tips:
Of course, we will not be using poor Steve in the actual app, as he does not belong to us. Look out for a release to the public on iPhone, hopefully some time in December!
Check out the other projects that came out of event (which all were pretty great) here.
I’m doing the MARS Energy Hackathon this weekend, and to get a good idea of what is already out there, I reviewed some web and mobile applications already using green button data in the USA:
Wotz [ http://wotz.ps.uci.edu/ ]
Wotz focuses on translating kilowatts into a more meaningful metrics for homeowners. Discussing the “kilowatts” consumed doesn’t create as big of an understanding as 6 hours of macbook use, for instance. Wotz also has a challenge component that lets the user make informed decisions on how to cut down their use and a play component (that is a bit of a mystery to me, honestly). Extra points for building in test data so that people can easily test drive the app! I think the focus on translating kilowatt hours into something understandable by the average human is really compelling, and I kind of wish they had gone further with it.
EcoDog Green Button Tool [ http://greenbutton.ecodoginc.com/GBCApp/ ]
Unfortunately, Ecodog doesn’t seem to be working these days…
Energy Insight [ http://greenbuttonconnect.com/apps/energyinsight/ ]
Oi, Energy Insight’s registration is busted. Someone, fix this!
EnergyAi [ http://www.energyai.com/ ]
EnergyAi seems to be focused on non-residential markets, allowing someone to upload their green button data and buy reports. The “report buying” strategy seems a bit old and inflexible (and grossly un-interactive), but might appeal to a certain audience. However, it means dropping $20 each time a user wants a report, whereas the trend tends to be moving toward an app that can focus on different time periods, etc.
People Power [ http://www.peoplepowerco.com/apps/ ]
People Power looks like a decent app that helps users set up energy budgets and provide suggestions for energy efficiency projects. I find the mobile app route a little odd, since it can be difficult to fit a lot of information into a tiny screen. The trade off is that the app is accessible all the time, but does People Power expect users to be constantly checking their budget? I will try it out for a longer term.
PlotWatt [ https://plotwatt.com/ ]
PlotWatt has a bit of a huge downside, it requires that you first purchase an “Energy Monitor” in order to participate. I’d love to know whether PlotWatt’s web application would work just as well by importing green button data… hmm… But the web app itself looks fairly compelling, using extrapolative algorithms to make assumptions on user appliance use and providing targeted suggestions for managing their energy use. PlotWatt seems to have also focused on a particular market (aside from residential) in restaurants, due to their high appliance use (and, therefore, high potential for savings). Again, would have loved to be able to test drive it with some sample data. It would be neat if the PlotWatt people allowed potential users to try the app out on PlotWatt employee data…
Simple Energy [ https://www.simpleenergy.com/ ]
Simple Energy seems like it is heading in the right direction, using sensible behavioural psychology inspired strategies dealing with motivation and overly-complex data presentation. They provide tools that adapt to user motivation and use modern reward systems. This system seems super keen… Alas, they don’t have a demo, so I’m stuck imagining what the system of apps might be like. *sigh*
Does anyone have any other Green Button based software applications to recommend?