Smart homes, control and energy management: How do smart home technologies influence control over energy use and domestic life?

Panel: 5. Energy use in buildings: projects, technologies and innovation

This is a peer-reviewed paper.

Authors:
Tom Hargreaves, University of East Anglia, United Kingdom
Richard Hauxwell-Baldwin, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, United Kingdom
Charlie Wilson, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, United Kingdom
Lina Stankovic, Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering, United Kingdom
Vladimir Stankovic, Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering, United Kingdom
David Murray, Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering, United Kingdom
Jing Liao, Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering, United Kingdom
Steven Firth, School of Civil and Building Engineering, United Kingdom
Tarek Hassan, School of Civil and Building Engineering, United Kingdom
Mike Coleman, School of Civil and Building Engineering, United Kingdom
Tom Kane, School of Civil and Building Engineering, United Kingdom

Abstract

By introducing new ways of automatically and remotely controlling domestic environments smart technologies have the potential to significantly improve domestic energy management. It is argued that they will simplify users lives by allowing them to delegate aspects of decision-making and control - relating to energy management, security, leisure and entertainment etc. - to automated smart home systems. Whilst such technologically-optimistic visions are seductive to many, less research attention has so far been paid to how users interact with and make use of the advanced control functionality that smart homes provide within already complex everyday lives. What literature there is on domestic technology use and control, shows that control is a complex and contested concept. Far from merely controlling appliances, householders are also concerned about a wide range of broader understandings of control relating, for example, to control over security, independence, hectic schedules and even over other household members such as through parenting or care relationships. This paper draws on new quantitative and qualitative data from 4 homes involved in a smart home field trial that have been equipped with smart home systems that provide advanced control functionality over appliances and space heating. Quantitative data examines how householders have used the systems both to try and improve their energy efficiency but also for purposes such as enhanced security or scheduling appliances to align with lifestyles. Qualitative data (from in-depth interviews) explores how smart technologies have impacted upon, and were impacted by, broader understandings of control within the home. The paper concludes by proposing an analytical framework for future research on control in the smart home.

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