Learning to live in a smart home

Abstract

Smart homes promise to significantly enhance domestic comfort, convenience, security and leisure whilst simultaneously reducing energy use through optimized home energy management. Their ability to achieve these multiple aims rests fundamentally on how they are used by householders, yet very little is currently known about this topic. The few studies that have explored the use of smart homes have tended to focus on special-interest groups and be quite short-term. This paper reports on new in-depth qualitative data that explore the domestication of a range of smart home technologies in 10 households participating in a nine-month field trial.
Four core themes emerge: (1) smart home technologies are both technically and socially disruptive; (2) smart homes require forms of adaptation and familiarization from householders that can limit their use; (3) learning to use smart home technologies is a demanding and time-consuming task for which there is currently very little support available; and (4) there is little evidence that smart home technologies will generate substantial energy savings and, indeed, there is a risk that they may generate forms of energy intensification. The paper concludes by discussing the implications of these findings for policy, design and further research.

Keywords

domestication, energy demand, feedback, field trial, household energy, occupant behaviour, smart homes, technology systems, users.

Authors

Tom Hargreaves(*), Charlie Wilson(**) and Richard Hauxwell-Baldwin(*)

(*) Science, Society and Sustainability (3S) Research Group, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK;
(**) Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK.

Learning to live in a smart house