Developing concepts that promote energy saving technology for ageing populations

Whittet, Craig and Taylor, Andrea and Walker, Guy and Galloway, Stuart and Stephen, Bruce and Docherty, Catherine and Lynne, Craig and Owens, Edward and Danson, Michael (2016) Developing concepts that promote energy saving technology for ageing populations. In: 18th International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education, 2016-09-08 - 2016-09-09.

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Fuel poverty is a critical issue for a globally ageing population. Increasing heating/cooling requirements combined with declining incomes has resulted in a global challenge that requires urgent attention. Three Scottish Universities/Colleges collaborated on a user centred and user led concept development process that focused on empowering elderly users to take steps to make their energy usage more cost effective and efficient. This study starts by analysing a cross section of home energy products and then develops and evaluates concepts with a range of stakeholders, including housing associations. The study benefitted from Research Teaching linkages/projects across undergraduate and postgraduate levels. From the initial research, it was concluded that there are serious usability issues with existing products. These failings prevent the products from being successful within the chosen demographic and ironically add to the energy challenge. Design concepts were developed by academic (teaching and research) staff from a diversity of backgrounds including: Electronic and Electrical Engineering, Interaction Design, Product Design Engineering, Psychology, Ergonomics and Social Sciences. The concept and design development benefited from engagement with the target audience and the paper will present the findings of this engagement. Key evaluation targets for the concepts were based on user insights, including: user-friendly interface; informative displays; ease of implementation and understanding of data. Concepts also had to fundamentally gain the confidence of the demographic through demonstrating how one could reduce energy consumption, therefore reducing fuel poverty. This step change in the acceptance would be a critical driver during the development of the concepts.