Smart Grids and Smart Homes

How might we design services to help people monitor and better allocate energy resources at home and across neighborhoods?


In recent years, the quantified-self movement – using technology to monitor one’s own behavior – has taken off. Products like the Apple Watch and Fitbit that monitor these activities have revolutionized the way that people track everything from exercise to sleep. There is an opportunity for new products and services to be developed that help people monitor their personal and home energy usage. Here in San Diego, the city offers residents rebates for buying such products and services. Even then, not all homes can afford to buy these kinds of products and technology and many people do not know where to start when it comes to tracking their energy usage and carbon emissions.

Specific angles to explore

In recent years, new products have been developed that help users track their energy usage at home. One such product is the Nest Learning Thermostat which is installed in a home and learns users’ energy usage behaviors over a given time period in order to better allocate energy resources throughout the day. Similarly, smart meters are being installed by cities to replace aging water meters in homes in order to give city public works officials more accurate and timely knowledge of a home or community’s water usage in order to adapt to community needs. Another example is the app offCents which accurately tracks and individual’s carbon emissions through their transportation methods and allows users to make donations to programs that will help offset their carbon emission.

Measuring Emissions: How might we provide people with accurate measurements of their daily carbon emissions?

Accessibility: How might we make smart home products more accessible to people in low-income communities?

Maximizing Data: How might we help city officials find new uses for the data collected by new smart meters and smart home products?