HCI Masters Project

DIY Smart Homes

Problem

Smart homes are still a niche many people are afraid to explore. The cost, interbrand compatibility, concerns with security, paranoia about privacy and other factors surrounding smart homes are a major hindrance to the rapid growth of IoT.

Can people build their own smart home systems? Can they connect it all up by themselves, and do so in a safe and effective manner? What are the challenges and opportunities here? What really is the factor that is preventing millions around the world to not explore this new and exciting generation of ubiquitous computing?

On finer details, do people prefer a command-line scripting interface or a graphical user interface? Do they want to process data at home on local computers than use something like AWS? Are they comfortable building their own sensors from components or prefer to buy prebuilt ones? How much of a learning curve is it, and are there benefits to asking people to go the extra mile?


Research

Obviously, the design of such a system is not a simple problem to solve. The solution involves understanding human factors, the opinions of Subject Matter Experts, Systems Thinking, User Centered Design and more.

This project is an ongoing investigation into the houses and minds of early smart home adopters, SMEs, and even common people with varying skill-sets in programming embedded systems, Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), off-the-shelf sensors and actuators, and wireless protocols like Z-wave, ZigBee or Bluetooth.

The outcome of the project will be a set of design insights, several proof-of-concepts and some recommendations in design and programming for a smart home system for widespread adoption, ease of use and more importantly, democratizing the data so users can become evangelists for the next generation of computers.

the aware home
The Aware Home at Georgia Tech

Type Capstone project, Individual, Mentored Role User Research, UX design, making PoCs, testing prototypes Duration 1 year (May 2017 - May 2018) Tools Interview design, cognitive walkthroughs, Pen-and-paper prototyping, Arduino, Raspberry Pi, Z-wave networks, Slack, Web Objectives Early stage research, UI Design, Product design, Rapid prototyping, Prototype evaluation, Implementation recommendation


Process


Results

The solution will be a deep dive into smart homes and user-friendly yet highly configurable IoT. With key insights into the skill sets and expectations of my users, I can effectively design a solution that will help democratize smart homes by giving them access and ability to tap into their smart home systems and build their own unique applications and dream up use cases without having to rely on a manufacturer for new functionality.

Inputs from SMEs will ensure that the recommendations arising out of this research will be in the realm of possibility and feasible in technology that exists today. I hope they will serve as an effective starting point for any individual or organization that wants to revolutionize smart home technology and IoT in general, just the way PCs of old used to come with hardware manuals for tinkering and understanding computers, educating several pioneers to innovate and revolutionize the field of computing forever.