Along with the COVID-19 pandemic came a paradigm shift. A shift in how we lived, how we worked, how we interacted with our environment. These unprecedented changes and our adaptive responses to them all varied but the common denominator in our collective experience was… our homes. Our lives began to center on the comfort of our homes. But with rising electricity costs in the Philippines, bad tropical weather causing power outages, and the call for sustainable practices remaining unanswered, the prospect of staying at home seemed more discomforting. Especially in the Philippines, one of the last few countries in the world to not have adapted to a new normal, being on extensive and disruptive lockdowns, the problem of energy consumption becomes a personal one. We need a sustainable solution that can be easily integrated into our day-to-day activities at home but with lacking advanced technology and lacking environmental infrastructure in the country, what can we do?
The first thing that heavily inspired us was the pandemic. The enforcement of quarantine ensured nearly everyone remained indoors for the majority of their time. This meant higher levels of energy consumption for households, as individuals found ways to entertain themselves all day or were required to work from home. This was exacerbated by the fact that our team lives in the Philippines - one of the few countries still in lockdown on a daily basis. Moreover, the Philippines is a third-world country. We wanted to make an app that looked out for people with low income, who still wanted to help the environment while being able to get by on a day-to-day basis.
What it does
This app has two main functions. One, household electricity consumption management through a Dashboard. Two, providing an online buying-and-selling community through a Marketplace.
The application allows one to create an electricity consumption plan based on their average consumption. It constantly displays the current consumption as well as the goal of decreased consumption. That being said, the app is also able to break down and present the consumption of each appliance in the household in a 3-dimensional view, conveniently broken down into rooms. To assist the user and reduce the tediousness of going to and managing each appliance individually, the app has control features. Divided by room and application, the user can control major appliances, such as lights, thermostats, refrigerators, speakers, and more. To assist the goal of decreased consumption, the user can control settings in which these appliances are automatically set to specific or lower functions, or are even completely turned off, at certain times of the day. The user can assign permission for this function to multiple members of the same household who have the app.
Providing a marketplace with primarily second-hand materials has three great advantages. First, it makes purchasing electrical appliances much easier and more convenient, especially as it is on the same app which measures and tracks the consumption of one’s current appliances. Second, it allows users to buy appliances at a lower price than in stores. This is especially important for third-world countries in which households look to save every penny. Third, it is environmentally conscious. Buying second-hand items means less appliances and materials wasting away in dumpsters and less pollution in the environment.
How we built it
We started off by conducting UX research to dictate our app’s human-centered design direction.
With brainstorming using affinity diagrams, crafting a user persona, and mapping a user journey, we delved into the ideation process to conceptualize our application that addresses your personal energy conservation needs right at home.
Finally, we utilized a multidisciplinary approach to mobile app development prototyping with graphic design and UX/UI design on Figma.
Challenges we ran into
One challenge was narrowing down the specific issue we wanted to deal with. There are a plethora of issues under the umbrella of “environmental issues”, and picking a main concern to deal with was challenging. As mentioned previously, our selection of energy consumption was inspired by the pandemic and quarantine, as well as our placement in the Philippines.
Another challenge was narrowing down the function of our application. Initially, there were ideas of the app also showing possible sustainable energy sources one could build given local businesses and materials available. The Marketplace section was initially a community of people selling second-hand plastic containers and clothes.
What's next for Watts
Moving forward, it would be a huge step in energy conservation if larger institutions, such as schools, stores, workplaces, and general establishments, would be able to integrate this app into their operations. Establishments used by many people on a daily basis means high levels of energy consumption which are difficult to manage. Integrating this app into establishments means consumption management for many of the larger and more significant contributors to electricity consumption.
It also would be optimal to extend the commercial side to more varied products. Buying second-hand and local items is already a great way to prevent pollution and support the people on the ground, as opposed to companies which contribute even further to environmental degradation. If the app could expand its store into other sectors, this would be a great step in pollution reduction and sustainability.