Despite its rapid development, smart home system is still not very attractive to most people.
Here we present WeHome, a smart home system based on WeChat, the most popular SNS in China. WeHome helps you control normal appliances remotely and conveniently. The main functions are:
This project focused on technology development.
Launched a survey to gather information about users
Conducted literature review on existing products and technologies
According to the survey, most people are reluctant to download apps, especially when it comes to home security. Many people are unwilling to invest on expensive smart appliances.
We also identified user needs of smart home system, including:
WeHome specializes in the above hightlighted points.
In addition, we conducted a thorough research on existing products to choose the best-fit technologies.
We had 102 participants for our online survey, who provided valuable feedback on their pain points.
We also identified several functions in highest demand.
"Wireless" is a crucial feature for smart appliances based on our research. We compared several wireless technologies and eventually chose ZigBee as our core technology. ZigBee is what customers want and what we like — something safe to use and power-saving. Wireless technologies are compared in weighted aspects in the chart below.
We also decided to use WeChat as our application platform because:
Structured our original system design
Paper-sketched our physical prototype
Asked feedback from experts
Finally, the core functions of WeHome are:
Turn on/off appliances
Adjust light brightness
Monitor temperature and humidity
Set up timers for appliances
We developed 3 control modes for users with different preferences and needs, including:
This session is to specify our system functions and structure the system frame. We made informed decisions on functions as follows:
We also structured our system frame, determining the connection details from WeChat to the appliances.
To tackle the problem of pricing, we managed to "upgrade" normal appliances by using smart sockets with ZigBee. We paper-sketched our socket prototype as shown below.
After finishing the original design, we acquired positive feedback from experts on feasibility and novelty. The feasibility of our expected functions are also confirmed and well received.
This prototype has two parts: physical prototype (ZigBee development) and software prototype (WeChat development).
For physical prototype, we reformed and upgraded sockets to smart sockets.
For software prototype, we used WeChat Official Account to implement our 3 control modes.
Voice Control Mode
Text-input Control Mode
Interface Control Mode — Phone
We also developed interface control on tablets for even easier control.
Interface Control Mode — Tablet
In the next step, we conducted user testing for their review and identified certain drawbacks in our design.
Voice control, text-input control, interface control
Each participant tested all three control modes in random order
Learnability, efficiency, error and satisfication
The graphs below is an overall evaluation on our design. We found that:
Based on the feedback we received, we recommend the following for further improvement:
As a sophomore, designing such a project was really exciting and rewarding. This was the first time that I actually participated in each step of the whole process, from research to development, and eventually presenting our prototype to the industry.
Devoting a year in WeHome, I practiced my skills in designing and coding, and most importantly, I learned to solve problems independently. I also found a way to adjust myself when things are not going well. With patience and optimism, I am always ready to be challenged.