Tomorrow's households: How do consumers react to a smart-home environment?
The Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) has set up an innovatively furnished smart home that integrates different energy-related technologies. The kitchen is equipped with smart household appliances that can react to external (price) signals. An energy management system (EMS) can optimize the power generation - e. g. through hotovoltaic-modules - and consumption in the most efficient way, e. g. cost-efficiently. For this study, 29 consumers divided into four focus groups have experienced this environment and discussed implications for their everyday behaviour. The topics that were also demonstrated in practice included variable tariffs, smart metering, smart appliances and home automation. In general, group reactions towards the smart home environment were positive. Consumers saw many advantages for them and emphasized the expectation that the equipment shown in combination with variable tariffs will offer the chance to save money. For a minority of participants, the possibility to lessen their individual environmental impact was perceived as the main motivation for changing their homes. The majority, however, saw environmental effects as a positive side-effect. It was regarded as difficult to give up high levels of flexibility and adapt everyday routines according to current electricity prices. Smart appliances and smart meters were therefore seen as necessary econditions by most participants. Concerns regarding data privacy protection played a major role in one of the groups. Currently test-inhabitants are living in the smart home for several weeks to experience this environment on a daily basis.