Rainforest Automation provides devices and services that work together to automate and optimise residential power usage; saving money for families, the environment, and the providers. We had the opportunity to work with Rainforest Automation thanks to our existing network in North America. Rainforest Automation wanted a design concept for an application that could monitor and control the energy consumption of a house. Control, not only in regards to energy consumption, but also in regards to detail control of lighting and appliances. Further, they wanted the application to help the user optimise their consumption by visualising the current price of electricity together with their consumption pattern.
As with any information visualisation work, the first step is to make sure you know exactly what information is available to you and what information you want to use, how the different types of information relate to each other and if there is an inherent hierarchy present, and finally how you want to display the information to the user. It was important for us to make the app’s UI feel alive and playful, but at the same time informative. For this, we designed the ‘Live Gauge’ which displays real-time information about the energy state of the house; allowing the user to see the effect turning an appliance or socket on or off has on the energy consumption of the house. However, the ‘Live Gauge’ as the name implies, only shows real-time information and while informative is limited in the ways it can help user’s form new habits, in order to save energy throughout the year. To help users with that, we incorporated a number of different history views, that help users understand their energy consumption, while also allowing them to optimise it in the future.
On the technical side, we needed the app to be platform independent in order to be deployable both on iOS and Android in a cost effective manner. Having looked through a number of alternatives we eventually decided to use React for our cross-platform framework. React appealed to us as an intuitive and efficient framework similar to the frameworks we had developed ourselves in the past.
The Rainforest Automation-project was in many ways our dream project; a great idea, hardware that already exists, and a company that needs UX help. Creating a good user experience and a beautiful design in order to both control and monitor data, that is what we do best. To this day, we have yet to see a solution that manages to do this at scale. The technology behind it is very interesting and we love taking on these kinds of projects.