CharIoT: Leveraging the Internet of Things to Reduce Fuel Poverty

Lead Research Organisation: University of Southampton
Department Name: Electronics and Computer Science

Abstract

The Internet of Things has already started to leave the lab and reach into the world with Internet enabled devices and products making it possible to capture and share our physical activities, our weight, our energy consumption, and our movement habits among many others. To paraphrase William Gibson, the Internet of Things is already here, it's just not very evenly distributed [2], it predominantly resides in the homes of those with sufficient disposable income to purchase new digital gadgets. This "in the wild" project focuses on how the Internet of Things (IoT) might avoid an emphasis on technologies that support a few digitally privileged households to consider how it may be beneficial to all elements of society. We are particularly interested in involving users at the edges of digital society, the low-income vulnerable households that are typically left behind by technological development. To achieve this broad aim we will work with low-income households currently in fuel poverty who are subject to ever increasing energy costs that they feel powerless to mitigate.

Fuel poverty is a key societal concern in the UK, with 4.5 millions of affected households in 2011 [1] exposed to associated financial, physical and emotional effects [3]. In addition to financial support and benefits, a key resource to help people in fuel poverty is energy advice to encourage wise energy use while keeping people warm and healthy. This is often provided by charities over the phone, in community centres and through home visits. The Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSE, the "user partner" in this project) is a national charity with over 30 years of experience in providing energy advice to people in fuel poverty. The advisors frequently face challenges involved in assessing the extent and effects of fuel poverty on a case-by-case basis. Many of these challenges arise from a paucity of information about energy use in the households they advise. Brief home visits and incomplete information gleaned through phone interviews often have to suffice to infer the causes of problems of properties often associated with health risks (e.g.damp and mold), to recommend both material and behavioural improvements to the affected, and to liaise with third parties to make the case for adjustments on their client's behalf (e.g. landlords, councils, and power companies). We seek to address these challenges by building applications and services on IoT technologies in support of energy advice by providing a richer picture of use and more evidence to drive change on behalf of these households.

1. Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) (2013): Annual Fuel Poverty Statistics. 2013.
2. Gibson, W. (1999): Interview on NPR's ''Talk of the Nation,'' 30 November
3. Marmot Review Team (2011): The health impacts of cold homes and fuel poverty. Friends of the Earth. Department of Epidemology & Public Health, UCL.

Planned Impact

Throughout the project we will be working with the Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSE) non-profit organization, to improve the ways in which CSE gives advice to people in fuel poverty. In this way, we aim to support the fuel poor to improve their financial, emotional and physical well-being, as detailed in the Case for Support.

Core engagements
The approach through which the project aims are achieved is an inclusive, user-centred design process, involving both CSE energy advisors and their clients (i.e. people in fuel poverty) at all stages of the design process. This methodology ensures that beneficiaries (advisors and clients) are exposed to the research and potential impact throughout the project; we refer to this pathway to impact as end-users engagement, as described in the following. Furthermore, industry engagement and academic engagement, outlined afterwards, maximise impact in engaging with these stakeholders.

End-users engagement.
Focus groups will take place in month 1 and 2 of the project. These will be led by CSE and involve their fuel-poverty clients; their aim is to elicit client needs, and on that basis develop requirements and identify opportunities for technical interventions. Design workshops are the central method to ensure iterative, participatory and user-centred development of the prototype, through which the same core group of energy advisors are involved in the design process. This extends from initial requirements in month 2, to exploration of seed data in month 7, to refinements of prototype sketches in month 9, to testing and refining the interactive prototype in month 11, to a concluding workshop in month 18. Together with CSE, we will also conduct a community workshop in month 13, in which the prototype will be demonstrated and tested, and volunteers from the community will be recruited to support the energy advisors during the deployment from month 13-17.

Industry engagement.
Industry engagement is undertaken with and through our project partner Horstmann Controls Ltd. (see Letter of Support) as well as by showcasing the project achievements and output, the IoT service delivery kit, at a suitable industry event, e.g., TSB's Innovate conference, Sustainability Live, or The Energy Event in 2015. Once developed, the kit may further be demonstrated via a series of industry-directed workshops run by CSE as follow-on activities to this project. All events and exhibitions will record numbers of visitors, will be diarised by attending researchers. Throughout the project, horizon scanning will assess new and emerging forums for dissemination in what is a fast-moving field, ensuring that the project is represented at key events and exhibitions.

Academic engagement.
Academic engagement such as through conferences are sought out to present the research outputs of the project to the national and international academic community. Leading high impact conferences in the field of HCI (CHI, UbiComp), Computer-Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW) and particularly Participatory Design (e.g., PDC) and their companion high impact peer review journals (e.g., ToCHI, PUC, CoDesign) will be targeted to present this work. At least one paper will be written about the use of IoT technologies for energy advice for a high impact policy journal, e.g. Environment, Science and Policy for Sustainable Development, to ensure dissemination amongst policy makers.
 
Description This project investigated applications and services built on Internet of Things (IoT) technology to reduce fuel poverty. Fuel poverty is a key societal concern in the UK, with 4.5 millions of affected households in 2011 exposed to associated financial, physical and emotional effects. In particular, the project explored the opportunity of using networked temperature and humidity sensors to augment the work of energy-advisors, who support clients in fuel poverty.

The advisors have found that the use of sensor data has added value to advice-giving practice, enabling them to get closer to their clients, build trust, and better evidence problems to clients and third parties (e.g., landlords). Their experiences have also raised further requirements for extending the sensor kit and developing interactive systems to better support sensor data work.
Exploitation Route The systems and services we developed can be useful to our "user partner", the Centre for Sustainable Energy, as well as other similar organizations helping those in fuel poverty. We are currently exploring the best avenues for this to take place.
Sectors Energy,Environment

 
Description This project involves a "user partner", the Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSE). CSE energy advisors have been involved throughout the research, through a user-centred process. They have used the experimental prototypes developed within the project in more than ten initial deployments. The prototypes added value to the advice-giving practice, enabling the CSE advisors to get closer to their clients, build trust, and better evidence problems to clients and third parties (e.g., landlords). The work in the Chariot Project is now being taken forward as the 'Chariot 2.0' project: a 1 year (£50k) project funded through the impact acceleration account from the University of Nottingham, and the Horizon Digital Economy research institute. The 'Chariot 2.0' project aims at further maturing the technology and hence facilitating the technology transfer to CSE.
First Year Of Impact 2015
Sector Energy,Environment
Impact Types Societal

 
Description International advisor to EPFL smart living lab
Geographic Reach Europe 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
 
Description Energy Game Changer: My House
Amount £78,762 (GBP)
Funding ID 2725-502273 
Organisation Innovate UK 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2017 
End 12/2017
 
Description Feasibility Study
Amount £36,320 (GBP)
Funding ID 132060 
Organisation Innovate UK 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2015 
End 03/2016
 
Description Joint funded by the EPSRC IAA (impact accelerator account) at the University of Nottingham and Horizon Digital Economy Research
Amount £50,722 (GBP)
Organisation HORIZON Digital Economy Research 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 07/2016 
End 06/2017
 
Description Platform Grants
Amount £1,431,420 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/P010164/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2017 
End 04/2022
 
Description User Interaction with ICT
Amount £806,241 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/N014243/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2016 
End 03/2019
 
Description Smart and Snug 
Organisation Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSE)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Smart and Snug was a CSE-led project that used Chariot Energy Kit technology developed by us.
Collaborator Contribution They deployed the Chariot Energy Kit technology in 20 homes at the core of the project.
Impact Improved energy advice to 20 homes Report on the outcomes of the project
Start Year 2017
 
Title Chariot 2.0 for domestic energy monitoring 
Description CharIoT is a web platform that aims to leverage the "Internet of Things" to support people in managing their energy use particularly those affected by fuel poverty. The platform relies on a sensor kit to capture environmental data that is meaning in the context of fuel poverty (such as humidity and temperature), and explore ways in which to interrogate the data for the 'symptoms' of fuel poverty, such as damp and cold. Chariot is a collaboration between researchers at the University of Nottingham, the University of Southampton, and the Centre for Sustainable Energy. This project was funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). 
Type Of Technology Webtool/Application 
Year Produced 2017 
Open Source License? Yes  
Impact The Centre for Sustainable Energy is using it actively in a energy monitoring project. 
URL http://chariot.org.uk/
 
Title Chariot: domestic environmental monitoring kit 
Description Chariot is a web app designed to store and visualise data from environmental sensors. Chariot enables monitoring of domestic environmental conditions of one or more properties. Chariot is optimised to work with the temperature/humidity/electricity sensors from OpenEnergyMonitor. 
Type Of Technology Webtool/Application 
Year Produced 2016 
Impact Chariot is currently deployed by the Centre for Sustainable Energy to support Bristol City Council's Quantum heater trials. Chariot is also used in a follow-on innovateUK project My House (Energy Game Changer Competition). 
URL https://github.com/horizon-institute/chariot
 
Title Temperature Calendar 
Description The Temperature Calendar is a web-based visualization of temperature variation within a building over the course of the past week. It is designed mainly for the workplace, and it highlights deviation from organizational temperature policy, with the aim to bring staff "into the loop" of understanding and managing heating, and so reduce energy waste. The Temperature Calendar was conceived as a public display, to be installed in a shared area of a non-domestic building (e.g. an office kitchenette). 
Type Of Technology Webtool/Application 
Year Produced 2015 
Impact The Temperature Calendar was deployed for three weeks in five public libraries in the South of England. Analysis of interaction logs, questionnaires and interviews shows that staff used the system to understand heating in their buildings, and took action reflecting this new understanding, to save energy or to improve working conditions. 
URL https://bitbucket.org/ecostanza/sdsample/overview
 
Description BEIS/Teddinet workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Project partner Centre for Sustainable Energy presented the Chariot project and its outputs at a BEIS/TEddinet workshop.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Beyond balance event, London 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Network event
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://balancenetwork.bimserver2.com/index.php/events/item/70-beyond-balance-agenda-registration
 
Description CharIoT Energy Kit Demo at the Horizon Research Institute Review Meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The CharIoT Energy Kit Demo at the Horizon Research Institute Review Meeting
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.horizon.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Horizon-Impact-Highlights-Brochure-2017.pdf
 
Description Citizen sensing damp busters workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact Damp and mould in homes: scale of problem, types of damp, identifying possible causes, health and other impacts, use of Chariot sensors and web portal by advisors to tackle damp and mould including case studies.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Creating Sustainable Behaviour Change Masters module 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Session was on visualising energy data and behaviour change, predominantly on smart meters. Chariot was linked to use of smart meter data and that it is an effective tool for household behaviour change, but was only briefly discussed.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description EPSRC press release 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact EPSRC selected the Chariot project for a press release.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://www.epsrc.ac.uk/newsevents/news/chariot/
 
Description Fuel Poverty Forum, Bristol 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact Fuel Poverty Forums:
Are aimed at strategic policy makers and front line service providers
Examine policy and practical initiatives related to fuel poverty and delivering energy efficiency solutions at a local, regional and national level
Showcase innovative provision and best practice
Promote dialogue and discussion on a wide range of sectoral issues Help NEA shape policy developments and campaigns.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.nea.org.uk/the-difference-we-make/events/categories/fuel-poverty-forum/
 
Description Panel at Centrica 
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 Expert panel about AI and HCI in the context of energy at an internal event at Centrica in Windsor
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Pint of Science Talk 2017 - Conversations with machines: pipe dream or the next big thing? 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Conversations with machines: pipe dream or the next big thing?

Natural language interfaces have recently made it into popular commercial products from smartphones to standalone devices such as the Amazon Echo. In this talk I will use examples from our research in which we examine how people talk to these devices in real life. Yet, the broken interactions we have recorded can hardly be described as 'conversation'. I will discuss why it is so hard to build conversational interfaces and share some ideas of what we would need to do to change this.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://pintofscience.co.uk/events/nottingham
 
Description Science & Family Day 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Around 350 children and their families attended the Science & Family Day 2015 (part of British Science Week) at the university of Southampton.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Smarter Warmer Homes 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact Free workshop: 11 Oct, Bristol - How can smart energy tech (meters, data, sensors etc) help vulnerable people?
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www.bristolhealthpartners.org.uk/events/view/2017/10/11/smarter-warmer-homes-realising-benefi...
 
Description TechNottingham talk: Damp, mould, and the IoT - supporting charity work in vulnerable households 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Gave a talk on the Chariot project and its outputs (Chariot energy toolkit), which generated some follow up contacts.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.technottingham.com/events/2016/10/3/tech-nottingham-october-2016-the-mixed-reality-lab-ta...