Intel announced last week that it is developing an Internet-based TV service that will personalize offerings like ads via a built-in camera that identifies users.
Control company Control4 recently announced a second-quarter introduction of a TuneIn music service that can personalize the system so each member of a family can listen to something different in different rooms or on their mobile devices at the same time.
There’s also the big move in personalizing the dashboards of automation and energy management interfaces via widget-based configurations, so building managers or homeowners can see at a glance just what they’re most interested in.
Personalization will be a key element in smart buildings and homes going forward. Combined with automation and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, it can allow us to personalize spaces for individuals or groups through climate control, lighting, security settings, audio/video needs and more.
Such personalization will also be key to selling energy-conserving technologies. You have to find out what is right for your customer, after all. Then you can use technology to personalize their energy management systems even more.
Don’t forget the lessons of the Nest Learning thermostat, which learns your occupancy habits and automatically programs itself, thereby personalizing (to some extent) your indoor climate choices. Nest may not be as individually personalized as Intel’s TV or Control4’s Tune In service, but it seems that personalization, in part, is about learning your habits and likings, and automatically setting or programming things for you.
We have the technology today not only to automate energy savings for people, but to personalize their climate and lighting levels and even which devices should draw power at certain times.
Our bet here is that we’ll see a lot more of the Nest thermostat’s learning capabilities put in other devices, such as appliances. Ford’s MyEneri collaboration, which combines electric vehicle charging with Whirlpool appliances, SunPower solar and others, hopes to tap into Nest Labs’ database of how users are using their thermostats and utilize that across its platform.
The Role of Behavior
Can technology alone do all of this for us? A recent post from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory exploring the effects of behavioral change on energy efficiency, states:
Human behavior is a crucial aspect of technology in many instances. “If people can’t understand how to use something they won’t use it,” says Berkeley Lab researcher Ed Vine, who has been studying behavior for 30 years. “So we may have great technologies, but nobody’s using them.”
Programmable thermostats are a classic example: meant as an energy-saving device, some are too complicated for people to understand. Now Berkeley Lab has developed the first method to quantify and rank the usability of thermostat interfaces. The resulting score allows manufacturers, regulators and others to rate the usability of controls and other products with complex interfaces. The methodology has been adopted by Energy Star for its next thermostat specification. Future work will focus on measuring the usability of lighting controls in commercial buildings, vehicle instrumentation and heat pump water heaters.
One can argue that is what Nest does so well. It programs itself, thereby personalizing (somewhat) the technology to an individual’s or family’s needs.
I may be guilty here of mixing topics like personalization, automation and artificial intelligence. But I believe there is a strong connection. And I don’t think automation technology and behavior change need to be two opposing concepts.
One can use behavior change to get people to use technology that automates and personalizes. And one can use technology and personalization to enact energy-conserving behavior change.