Principles for inclusive smart homes

From the analysis and testing done during this project, three main design principles could be identified. They are insights that are not specifically applicable to the design goals nor to the product that was designed. They are general principles that can be used as guidelines to design more inclusive smart home products. This chapter introduces these guidelines and uses the wake-up light design scenario to explain them, see below.

Wake-up light: enthusiast is not always an enthusiast

1. Enthusiast comes home after a party ready for bed, it’s very late.
2. The house thinks they just woke up and gives them the floodlights!
3. The enthusiast has burning eyes.

Protect domestication

Domestication of technology is the process with which people hear about a technology, learn to use it and integrate it into their routines. This first principle calls to protect any domesticated technologies that smart products might affect. A smart product that is introduced should keep the original routines intact. For this, the traditional control must stay; lights can be controlled with a light switch, the TV can be controlled with a remote, indoor climate can be controlled with a thermostat and a door can be physically locked.

Adding new features

Smart products might introduce features which might collide with traditional functionality. In this case, the traditional functionality should be more easily discovered than the new features.

Protect domestication example

The lights were full brightness, so you smacked the switch next to the door. Lights are off, just like always.

Give immediate control

Households are socially complex and routinely involve breakdowns, improvisations, compromises and conflicts (Davidoff et al., 2006). We are unpredictable, sometimes we’re sick or get home a bit late. This second principle calls to abandon automatic behavior once an exception is found. When a user tries to deal with an exception, they should immediately receive full control. Non-enthusiasts expect to receive full control when manually controlling their environments. When they turn the lights on, the lights are staying on.

Enthusiasts can adapt

When an enthusiast encounters a room that no longer responds automatically, they will wonder why and know how to fix this. They might be annoyed by this, but they can always fall back to their original, well domesticated, technology.

Give immediate control example

After smacking the lights off, you turn them on very dimly. They stay like this until you turn them off again.

Facilitate adaption

People are unpredictable, but this does not mean exceptions are impossible to solve. When a user deals with an exception, it can be used to learn from. By keeping track of these moments with immediate control, useful insights can be gained. Knowing if an exception happens often, with whom they happen, when they happen and what exactly happens are crucial pieces of information for improvement. Turning this information into actionable insights and making it accessible to the enthusiast, gives them the tools they need to improve an automation.

AI does something similar

This adaption is similar to smart products that have a self-learning system. With the creative problem-solving skills of an enthusiast, actionable insights likely rival or surpass the capabilities of a self-learning system.

Facilitate adaption example

After sleeping, you check what actually happened during your morning. You know exactly what happened and how to fix it. You decide to only enable wake-up lights after your alarm has gone off.

Next chapter: Presenting slimmer dimmer