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Presentations, Sustainability, Work

IxDA Sydney—June 2016 presentation + notes

Last Thursday night I was privileged to present a short talk at the June IxDA Sydney meetup. (Thanks Joe!)

The slides from my talk are presented below:

Or you can download the slides, along with my speaker notes (PDF 2.8MB), which includes links to a lot of the inspirational projects I highlighted.

Videos (with captions) from all of the sessions on the night are available from IxDA YouTube channel. My presentation follows:

It was a tough ask to follow Jake Causby (@jakecausby) and Jason Davey (@p1x3lman) who stepped up at the last minute to replace a sick Henry Cho. Their talk on Lean UX—How to Lean—was excellent. I found myself nodding an awful lot, and what they presented reflects a lot of my own learnings—so I thoroughly recommend checking it out if you weren’t able to attend. As I noted in my own talk, our work is seeking to answer questions/validate assumptions that have emerged from our own Lean Canvas work—so it was a timely, and perhaps serendipitous, prelude.

As noted previously my talk covered:

Could a digital device create a stronger connection to the natural world? Might alternatives to “graphs and charts” be (more) effective in changing energy consumption in the home? Inspired by clever examples of biomimicry and social research into energy behaviours, designer and sustainability practitioner Grant Young is in the early stages of exploring these questions.

In this session’s talk, Grant shares his journey from theory to concept to these early data collection prototypes—a wifi-based energy monitor leveraging open source hardware (such as the Arduino and low-cost sensors). His talk will touch on biomimicry and eco-visualisation, designing for devices (with limited UI), data-informed design, principles of behaviour change, the benefits (and challenges) of open source hardware prototyping, and more.

It was great to chat with a bunch of folks afterwards and to make some terrific new connections with folks who are interested in supporting the project and were inspired by the potential of applying their skills towards sustainability outcomes.

One thing that I think I perhaps didn’t emphasise sufficiently in my talk is that the open source energy monitor we’ve built is not the end goal. It serves as a means of collecting some data to inform future development, and to allow us to be able to respond to that data in real-time in the future. I have been referring to it, along with the Django-based REST API, as the basis of a “platform for experimentation”.

Part of the reason for this approach is that there are some great projects/products that are moving towards solving this problem already—one standout Australian example is WattCost. It uses an approach I’ve heard referred to as “disaggregation” to tease out the electricity consumption of specific appliances from the aggregate dwelling level electricity data (i.e. the “main line”). It uses a non-intrusive monitor to do this, and one attendee on the night indicated that it uses a long-life battery for power (addressing some of the concerns/barriers I note in the presentation).

Our interest is exploring what happens at the “end of the data”—e.g. how we most effectively influence behaviour on the basis of real-time data. So we’re watching that space very closely, with the hope/expectation that these emerging solutions will provide a platform upon which we can build. But in the meantime, we have a simple, low-cost solution that enables us to progress our thinking and design efforts, while we simultaneously develop the business model (using the Lean Canvas). And the process itself has proven very helpful in getting us “up to speed” with device design and development.

Again—thanks to everyone that came up afterwards to say “hello,” ask questions, or make suggestions. And if anyone is interested in being involved in the project, or just wants to chat about it further, we’d love to hear from you.

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