SPARK Project #1, Post #3

Computers & Mobile Energy & Sustainability
SPARK Project #1, Post #3


I came across this very elegant residential energy efficiency dashboard from Agilewaves as I was thinking about user interfaces for my smart home project. I like the clean, intuitive design and the logical layout. Skilled interface designers were probably involved with creating this interface. I won’t pretend to be a skilled interface designer, and I do want to create a simple user interface that communicates historic resource usage and current usage measurements. There are a lot of tools available to create complex user interfaces with back-end stub code to simplify programming. Much of my programming experience involves embedded systems, and I prefer hacking systems that hide inside larger electromechanical devices, with an embedded controller to handle measurement and control with specifically defined user interaction. Thus, AJAX and PERL are not the first tools I grab to create an interface. I do have pushbuttons, 4 bit to 32 bit microcontrollers, and LCD displays at the ready in my tool kit. With those tools in mind, I’ve set about creating a basic look and feel for my dashboard.

In my previous posts, I outlined some of the general requirements for a smart home network that aggregates energy generation and usage data for a net-zero building. I have looked at basic measurement and control needs of the building’s users, and the sources of signals and the sensors needed to acquire those signals. I want to display this information to the users and occupants of the building. As a place to start, I’ve drawn some basic widgets that will be fed data for display.

Continue on to the SPARK Project blog to see more.

10 thoughts on “SPARK Project #1, Post #3

  1. RocketGuy says:

    I see the words “sponsored” and “microsoft” and I just can’t help but feel something just draining out of the site. Vitality? Hit points? I dunno.

    The irony is that I know somebody who works within the windows mobile group, and even like her as a human being. So I don’t see this as a simple issue.

    Still don’t like this whole thing though. It feels antithetical to DIY spirit, like a corporate tentacle is sliding it’s way in. Not that all corporations are pure evil, but MS sure does try for it.

    Just my opinion, I’m aware that there are others.

  2. Timothy D. Swieter says:

    I think this project and the project goals are really on-topic for how DIYers are thinking about environment theses days. I am enjoying reading this blog and learning more about how he is doing this and why. These blog posts on are inspiring, however the details of what is being done and how he is doing the project are lacking. I wish there were more details.

    For instance in this recent post it shows some screen shots the author made for his GUI, but doesn’t mention a single word on what software tools or methods he used to compose them. He is creating an embedded system, but didn’t mention the tools.

    Perhaps at this time he is still conceptual in his design, so maybe the details will come later.

    1. SPARK Project #1, Post #3 Becky Stern says:

      You’re right, Timothy, this project is a work in progress, and we’ll be hearing more about it very soon! The Spark project page has more details than the post here, and this project is ongoing.

    2. Kipp Bradford says:

      Timothy, thank you for the feedback. This post was lighter than desired, a consequence of spending a substantial amount of time looking ahead to future posts covering SPARK computer hardware and software.

      Since you asked about the GUI, I used Labview 8.6 running in Windows XP to create it. I am working on conceptual design, in addition to learning about 6 different hardware platforms plus a mostly unfamiliar development environment. I expect most hobbyists to face a similar challenge. I had the benefit of resorting to a software rapid-prototyping tool to communicate what the GUI might be and understand how it should work before digging into the software and hardware. This was also important to me because I want the user interface requirements to lead the software and hardware discussions.

      1. Timothy D. Swieter says:

        Thanks for the details. I see the latest post is up – looks like a hardware post.

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Kipp Bradford is a technology consultant and entrepreneur with a passion for making things. He is the Senior Design Engineer and Lecturer in Engineering at Brown University, where he teaches several engineering design and entrepreneurship courses. Kipp is also on the Technical Advisory Board for Make Magazine.

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