All images via the Interactive Institute - www.tii.se
"A regular torch shows what is hidden in the dark, the Watt-Lite shows the hidden use of electricity", this is the essential purpose of a set of three lights created by designers at Stolkholm's Interactive Institute. The Watt-Lite is a rather inventive form of smart meter that finds a straightforward way of demonstrating how much energy a building is using in the style of real time infographic. Designers Loove Broms and Li Jönsson tell us why they think these spotlights will help industrial workers take note of their energy consumption...
The three Watt-Lite torches are spotlights with three different colours. They can be hung from the ceiling so that the lights project on the floor or they can be set horizontally on their handles so they project on to a wall. Each light takes a measurement of energy use through the day.
- The dark grey Watt-Lite is a real-time electricity meter providing instant feedback of the current electricity usage.
- The light grey Watt-Lite with a blue projection and cable shows the smallest effect (minimum) used during that day.
- The second light grey Watt-Lite with orange projection and cable shows the highest effect (maximum) used during that day.
The Watt-Lite designers tell us that the size of the light beam projected from the torches indicates a company's electricity consumption in real time. The dimension of the light halo expands and contracts during the day depending on the energy usage of the factory or office building that it is placed in.
Broms and Jönsson explain that by using three torches that shine in different colours, the real-time energy consumption can easily be compared to the maximum and minimum consumption throughout the day.
The theory of this design idea goes that if the daily energy usage that normally goes unseen, is visualised for all the company workers to see, then it will help them be more conscious of the amount of electricity they use and perhaps prompt them to adjust their behaviour to conserve more energy. Broms and Jönsson say:
"Research has shown that technical solutions alone will not suffice to reduce the environmental impacts caused by mankind. Changes in habits are very important factor in reducing our excessive use of energy. In the research project IndustryWise, conducted at the Interactive Institute, the focus has been towards industries seeking to create interest and engagement around the topic of electricity to reduce unnecessary use."
We like the Watt-Lite's low tech approach of visualising energy with spotlights. It is very unlike other smart meter designs, that take on the appearance of electricity meters with digital interfaces and lots of numbers, which can be off putting and unintelligible. The Watt-Lite is more of a constant pulsing presence in the work space, like electricity itself in a way, which people become aware of as the projected light graphics change size through the day.
Currently there are 10 sets of Watt-Lites being tested in factories and other businesses in Sweden. We look forward to seeing if they do in fact prompt positive behaviour change in energy consumption.
Other designs to measure energy use
Wattson: Monitor Your Home's Energy Usage
Save Money and the Environment with Smart Energy Meter
Onzo Energy Meter Displays Carbon Footprint
Does Google's PowerMeter Make Smart Meters Irrelevant?
Prototype: Flower Energy Monitoring Lamp