of laundry or running the dishwasher, until the
electricity price is off peak.
In the future, demand response will be more
automated, and HCI designers will play a role
in the second generation by designing systems
that maintain customer convenience, choice,
and control. For example, programmable communicating thermostats that receive signals
from the utility to automatically raise or lower
temperature will need interfaces that allow
both configuration and manual override. Smart
appliances will need user interfaces that signal
when they’ve been automatically paused due to
a demand response event.
configured, automatic profile that automatically
sets lighting, heating, cooling, appliances, and so
on. Utilities will also use analytics to automatically determine the source of energy waste, and
provide customers with proactive recommendations for saving energy and reducing costs.
Electricity supply is greater at night than it is
during the day. Thus, to reduce the need to construct additional generation sources for daytime
use, utilities are asking customers to shift usage
to different times of day. Given work schedules
and family needs, people often find themselves
using dishwashers, washing machines, dryers,
and so on during the day. With appropriate customer performance design, usage of these appliances can be relegated to nights.
Dynamic rates play a big part in encouraging customers to shift usage from day to night.
Electricity at night is less expensive than during
the day, which creates an incentive—lower prices
to encourage customers to shift their usage. But
HCI designers play a role as well in designing
interfaces that support load shifting. Many of
these interfaces are similar to what I’ve already
described for demand response and energy efficiency, such as visible price signals and appliance
September + October 2009
Most customers have no clue how or when they
are wasting energy. The primary reason for this
is a long and nonspecific feedback loop. Today,
the only feedback customers get about their
energy use is the bill. With smart meter systems,
customers will be able to determine on a real-time basis how much energy they are using, and
the cost of that energy, so they can make wise
decisions that eliminate waste.
The first generation of feedback devices that
need HCI designer involvement are online presentment interfaces (OPIs) and in-home displays
(IHDs). Through OPIs, customers will be able to
view day-after usage data on an hourly basis
and use a variety of tools to view that data. For
example, customers can compare their usage
with that of residences or businesses of a similar
size. IHDs, on the other hand, display real-time
energy usage information in units such as kilowatt hours, cost, or even carbon. IHDs may be
stand-alone devices or may be integrated into
existing display systems, such as security touchscreens or even your local interactive cable channel. Through the information provided by these
interfaces, customers will be able to find opportunities for being more energy efficient.
The second generation need will see a shift
from data and information to knowledge and
wisdom-type displays. Enabled by a device called
a home area network (HAN), HCI designers will
contribute to systems that allow customers to
view the energy usage of any “smart” appliance
in the house, control those appliances remotely
(and safely), and set up “energy themes” for their
homes or businesses. An energy theme is a pre-
Energy needs a new interface, and HCI designers
are in the position to create designs that enable
utility customers to become cocreators of value.
By focusing interaction designs on customer
performance and looking for opportunities in
operational efficiency, demand response, energy
efficiency, and load shifting, HCI designers will
be able to make worthwhile contributions to a
more sustainable future.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Peter C. Honebein, Ph.D.,
is a principal with Customer Performance Group
LLC, a marketing and management strategy consulting firm. He is also an adjunct professor at
Indiana University and University of Nevada, Reno,
and author of Creating Do-It-Yourself Customers and
Strategies for Effective Customer Education. Find out more at www.
© 2009 ACM 1072-5220/09/0900 $10.00