Digital Agent Networking for Customer Energy Reduction (DANCER)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Essex
Department Name: Psychology

Abstract

Long-term energy consumption reduction can be achieved more readily through sensible cooperation between end users and technological advancements. Monitoring energy use within buildings requires clear and reliable methods with outputs that are meaningful and helpful. End users play a pivotal role in this as energy use revolves around their presence and comfort. Hence, with changing lifestyles and working patterns, energy consumption reduction can be aided by new approaches in digital innovation. Energy metering schemes are now popular and provide data on energy use and cost, but communicatively are a one-way street. Hence, this information is only beneficial if users continually make changes to utility use within their home. However, behavioural changes inducing energy reduction fade relatively quickly and users feel less empowered. Last year, residential sector emissions rose by 13.4% despite metering being a popular investment. Based on this information, interactive systems can help address this problem.
Consumers appreciate that innovative technology can increase their quality of life. However, a lasting bond between the two can only occur when users have confidence in the technology around them. This is more likely to happen when users and technologists work collectively in the system design process. DANCER takes insights from users' behaviour analysis, metering schemes, wireless sensors and embedded software to produce a system that both interactively and automatically manages users' energy consumption within indoor environments. It will tailor users' energy consumption to their habits aiming to reduce energy consumption. To achieve this DANCER adopts a multidisciplinary approach where knowledge from psychology, social and economic research, wireless communication and computer science unite to provide a viable solution that is beneficial to all the stakeholders on the energy supply-consumer chain.
To the above aim, users' energy consumption habits will be collected and studied to inform both the design of the energy control system as well as the user interface in the DANCER system. Baseline information will be collected from samples of end users. This will be combined with insights from the relevant emerging literature. Moreover, an iterative participatory design approach will be used to explore how users feel about the digital technologies to be employed in this project and how they imagine these technologies can assist them in reducing their energy consumption and carbon footprint. Increasingly mature versions of the DANCER system will then be pre-tested through a series of pilot studies with volunteers so that users' queries about the sensors, networks and control policies being used to monitor and interactively manage their energy use can be further examined. Finally, the mature DANCER system will be tested in a control trial experiment where samples of households will be either provided with DANCER or allocated to appropriate control conditions. The trial will enable the analysis of the effect of the system on users' energy related behaviours, energy and carbon emissions.
The DANCER system will act as follows. Wireless sensor networks will employ novel sensing and communication mechanisms which will monitor users' movements and the energy use of a range of appliances. These data, together with the information either collected directly from end users via their smart phone application (e.g. indications to reduce energy use by 20%) or inferred indirectly from user habits, will be fed into a decision making agent that will decide when to switch on/off certain appliances and for how long. The above information collected by the agent, on a per-dwelling basis, will be sent to a centralised remote database. As a result, a global view of the energy consumption and user habits can be derived. In return, this information can be used to guide stakeholders to more effective and efficient way of supplying and consuming energy.

Planned Impact

User engagement is an essential part of the project's remit as it underpins our objectives of long-term sustainability and ensuring the onward utilisation of the research data and results. We will do this through a three-pronged approach built around open research, open data and active engagement.
The project will adopt an 'open research' model to ensure maximum dissemination and exploitation of its results. Thus, all outputs (papers, reports, educational materials and data which are not confidential or disclosive) will be placed in the public domain via a project website and/or an appropriate archive service as soon as practical after completion, while ensuring that they are accurate and of high-quality. We will ensure appropriate and acceptable re-use terms for knowledge codified in papers or reports and also for the data generated by the project with a default preference for a Creative Commons-like attribution, non-commercial re-use model. This approach will also apply to any intellectual property codified in the DANCER system itself although it is likely that more stringent commercial re-use terms will apply.
Besides the re-use of core DANCER data, our ambition is to open up the energy data collection system to the inclusion of new households who are not in the original DANCER trial in order to develop an ongoing energy-use data collection infrastructure. This may, for example, allow groups of households in other trials, or members of the public more generally to 'sign up' to our data collection system. To date we have received strong interest from British Gas in contributing households from their internal technology trials to this infrastructure and we envisage similar relationships with others in the sector to develop a self-sustaining and open data collection mechanism. Data collected in this manner would be made similarly available for research re-use in appropriately anonymised forms.
Finally, in order to leverage the open research and open data approaches, we will develop an intensively managed stream of activities which aim to a) raise awareness of our research, b) engage potential research users in our research and c) draw some of those users into deeper interactions with the research programme. As outlined in the 'beneficiaries' section we will focus our efforts on the academic research community; commercial energy monitoring and supply companies, national/local government and NGO policy makers and researchers and the general public. We plan a range of tailored activities to draw these groups from awareness of our research, through engagement with the research process and results and, where appropriate into close interaction with the project.
As a foundation for these activities an open Special Interest Group (SIG) will be established rapidly to build on existing user relationships with the project's partners. SIG will be the project's first line of dissemination and user engagement and will form the core of invitees to seminars, workshops and other events. We have already received clear expressions of interest from British Gas, British Telecom and DECC for example.
At project outset we will instigate a website and facebook page/twitter feed. The social media channels will be used for regular dissemination of project news, events, publications and summary results and to engage all potential user groups in the project progress. A series of workshops will be used to engage potential users in the DANCER system design, the trial design and preliminary results.
In parallel to traditional academic conference and journal paper outputs we will develop and deploy a small number of 'mini-exhibitions' outlining and demonstrating the DANCER system, the underlying social practices of energy use and our results.
Finally we will develop an educational resource package to support data re-use. This will include support for data analysis through data access and training for visiting researchers and research students.

Publications

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Buchanan K (2018) Feedback in energy-demand reduction in Building Research & Information

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Buchanan K (2015) Going the extra green mile: When others' actions fall short of their responsibility in Journal of Environmental Psychology

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Song Y (2015) Friendship influence on mobile behavior of location based social network users in Journal of Communications and Networks

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Vastardis N (2016) A user behaviour-driven smart-home gateway for energy management in Journal of Ambient Intelligence and Smart Environments

 
Description We examined householder interaction with energy monitors using product reviews from Amazon.co.uk. This revealed how people use and respond to the devices and also highlighted the fundamental barriers to the success of such devices in changing behaviour. This prompted further research that lead to argue that the design of the in-home-display is crucial to its success in changing behaviour, in particular the longevity of the use of the device. One aspect of this is the extent to which the end-user/consumer understands the consumption information that is being shown to them (comprehension check) and the intuitiveness/user friendliness of the devices.
Exploitation Route Our finding can support the design of improved and more effective in-home-displays to support energy reduction
Sectors Energy

 
Description We examined householder interaction with energy monitors using, among other things, product reviews from Amazon.co.uk. This revealed how people use and respond to the devices and also highlighted the fundamental barriers to the success of such devices in changing behaviour. We also argued that the design of the in-home-display is crucial to its success in changing behaviour, in particular the longevity of the use of the device. One aspect of this is the extent to which the end-user/consumer understands the consumption information that is being shown to them (comprehension check) and the intuitiveness/user friendliness of the devices. This research lead to the uptake of some of our recommendations/findings in the refinement of the design of in-home-displays by at least one SME.
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Energy
Impact Types Economic

 
Description "Energy feedback symposium", Edinburgh 4th-5th July 2016, Convenors: Kathryn Buchanan (University of Essex) & Sam Staddon (University of Edinburgh) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact The key focus, in line with the title, was on energy feedback and the potential impact on energy savings. About 80 people attended the symposium with about 50% of the attendees from industry and third party organisation. In recent years, the world-wide roll out of smart-metering has led to a surge in feedback-related initiatives with academics, policy-makers and those in industry keen to identify if and how it can promote energy efficiency and reduction. With this in mind, the symposium sought to bring together all those with an interest in energy-feedback to share the latest empirical evidence in this arena and to reflect on current and future research, policy and practice in the field.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://teddinet2.wordpress.com/activities/energy-feedback-symposium/
 
Description Advisory Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact A group of about 20 stakeholders (industry, charities and practitioners) met to discuss advancement in the project and to discuss future applications. The automatic features to control energy use of the proposed system were praised and strong interest emerged about the use of Ultra Wide Band technology in monitoring occupancy.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Discussion on the evaulation of energy monitoring/controlling devices 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A group of about 20 people (practitioners, researchers, postgraduate students) discussed pro and cons of evaluative tests/trials of energy management devices/tools.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Teddinet meetings 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Talk sparked questions and subsequent discussions

Relevant discussions on the impact of feedback about energy consumption on energy reduction have been instigated among researchers and practitioners.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014,2015
URL http://teddinet.org