please help designer

Hi there, i am absolutely new to Arduino and don't understand much in technical things (but fascinated :)). I am a designer preparing proposal and i need an advice from the people who are smart in this field. I run into Arduino researching different gadgets and it seems to be an amazing starting point that can do a lot of things.. So i decided to ask a few questions here..Hope you don't mind..

My brief is to find engaging and natural way to make people aware of their energy consumption in domestic environment.

At the moment there are many "smart meter" solutions on the market; they are monitoring your energy consumption for the whole house in real time and could include some features like being wireless, displaying your usage in money or even have an desktop application for profiling. The problem is that people don't really use them permanently and it demands some effort if you really want to find out energy consumption for the particular appliance.

Now.. i really would appreciate if you guys could help me with my idea.. in terms.. is it possible at all and if yes that are the ways to implement and develop such system? That components it would require? Is it possible to build something like that on the Arduino bases? How does it look like from the hardware point of view since the displays should be aesthetically appealing? From energy consumption and price points? Would it be a good idea to have it as participatory project? Please feel free to criticize or add something new :) Thanks a lot,

Nicole

initial idea.. 1. different OLED displays that can be mounted on the walls, tables, mirrors and etc.. This displays are activated if somebody stays in front of them. The visualization looks like ambient lighting / animation and have 2 modes that are switched by touching the panel. In one modus it reflects the real-time energy usage in the second a projection of usage comparing to the standardized monthly consumption. Animation is expressed via use of different colours and their intensity, proportion to each other and may be shapes. Possibly it could produce ambient sound as well?? 2. Since the meter reading is for the whole house, it might be interesting to integrate feature to detect different appliances and record their energy usage individually. I thought it might be possible if you tag each of your devices with RFID transmitter that are shield than device is switched off and transmitting then switched on. I read that this transmitter can be really chip, can be easily attached to objects, don't use energy and can't be shield with metal foil. Not sure though it is possible, may be it should be something else. Assuming that it is possible.. than system could learn and develop profiles for different devices and an online tool could generate diagrams and models of user energy consumption patterns. So you could see when and how long / much did you use your TV or washing machine... How energy efficient is your fridge model comparing to your neighbor or to the overage.. Moreover it would be nice if system can register not only switched on device but who switched it on as well. So if you have 4 family members each of them has their profile and you could have a 4 small OLED screens to each other. In this way you could see who uses more. 3.

Would be lovely to have it as an open system, that people can extend the features adding new functionalities, like new visualizations, smart mobile integration..

Moreover it would be nice if system can register not only switched on device but who switched it on as well.

Wow - the ultimate big brother.

You have plenty of ideas but they are all rather woolly, each aspect is an ambitious project in itself and some are simply not practical (like the one I have quoted)

Statements like:-

Animation is expressed via use of different colours and their intensity, proportion to each other and may be shapes.

Sound the sort of waffle stuff you get from architects, with little understanding about conveying useful information and more about some sort of art aesthetic.

Clearly you are out of your depth here and I would suggest attempting to crawl before you try and fly. Get a board, do some tutorials and get a feel for what you want to do. I have been an electronics engineer for over 40 years and only this weekend I began building something that has taken me three years to lead up to, some things take time.

I thought it might be possible if you tag each of your devices with RFID transmitter that are shield than device is switched off and transmitting then switched on.

You couldn't do it this way but could do it with a transmitter. However this would mean breaking into each device and modifying it, not a very practical option. Simpler would be to identify the mains socket a load is being taken from by having them controlled by something like an X10 control.

Finally take a step back, you are going to be using lots of energy and resources to monitor the use of energy. Where is the break even point? You could easily consume much more than you could possibly save especially if you take into account the amount of energy needed to make all this fancy electronics.

Thanks Grumpy_Mike for your reply really appreciate it. I realized that i explained myself not enough clearly. I am a visual designer (not industrial) and proposal is for a creative brief. So it is more like idea generation stage for client before even thinking to start preliminary research for a big project. The problem they have is that people are not aware of their consumption patterns and not willing to spend time/money on currently available energy monitoring products. So as you pointed out correctly it is about waffle stuff integrated in your home - each time you pass it - you are reminded about how energy - efficient you are and weather you should check your profile in details online (if not).

You couldn't do it this way but could do it with a transmitter. However this would mean breaking into each device and modifying it, not a very practical option. Simpler would be to identify the mains socket a load is being taken from by having them controlled by something like an X10 control.

Oh probably you are right and it is a lot of science-fiction here. I just thought since printed electronics is developing it is possible to have an active transmitter that is normally switched off (disconnected from battery for example) and switched on manually; all that it does just says this device was switched on at xx pm and switched off at yy pm. and you stick it near device button. The problem with sockets - it is not giving your information about which device is working (unless you put in the system yourself), takes energy and not all sockets are easily accessible. If it requires to much effort people tend not to use it; if all that you need is to push a second button on your device - you might do it...

Anyway i am very happy to discover Arduino, if i get time i definitely would love to play with it!!

and you stick it near device button.

The problem here is that in order for a device to know if it has been switched on it needs something in the device monitoring it. Just putting something close is not going to work in every case. Sure there are some things that you can detect are on from the signals it emits, every device emits radio frequency pollution with a different signature and in theory it might be possible to use this for detection. But this will probably mean a design exercise for each device. Computers, TV sets and cookers are all very different in the electromagnetic pollution they produce. (known as EMC and there are laws governing just how much emission is permitted http://www.elliottlabs.com/services_emc_why.htm) It strikes me as a global (household) total is much easer and maybe as efficient as individual totals although I can see the appeal in the abstract for incremental individual totals. However this is fine tuning and until you can get people to apply a little common sense, like not having the windows open when the air conditioning is on, individual contributions from specific consumer items are likely to have little impact.

Still if it just a design and you don't have to actually make it then anything is possible. ;)

and switched on manually

This would probably be the point of failure - people aren’t going to want to switch on two buttons for use of an appliance or whatnot…

What would be more likely used (from the point of view of a package to buy for a house or office) would be a “dongle” the device could plug into (which would pass-thru current and the dongle would transmit that “it was in use” for the appliance) or a wrap-around current sensor on the plug/wire that could do the same thing. Transmission would be wireless (or via the powerlines, like X10 - in the case of the dongle), and each device would have an address (tied to the appliance or lamp). Certain appliances (like the A/C unit, water heater, oven, etc) would need this extra device professionally installed on them (or, since most of these appliances would be on their own breaker, installed at the breaker box).

This still doesn’t code for the user using them; one way this could be done (least intrusive) might be for the device to sense and read an RFID tag on the user (integrated into say a ring, watch, bracelet, or other bit of jewelry, perhaps). The only problem would be doing this and keeping the device reading it (and integrated with the dongle) compact, yet still able to read the user (and this wouldn’t work with certain appliances - like a hot-water heater; perhaps these would just have to be implemented as “global” - otherwise you would need to integrate things with the plumbing, too!).

This is a very complex project - doable, certainly; maybe even with Atmel processors (not necessarily the Arduino, though - except for prototyping). I don’t think these devices should necessarily consume more power than they save (although what do I know - I haven’t been an electronics engineer for 40 years! :wink: ) - but at least some of these devices might have to be powered by batteries (unless you want cords or custom wiring done), which may or may not last thru the month (and the cost would have to be figured into the system).