Despite the rapid development of smart home system, it is still not very pervasive to most people. The main reasons are:
Here we present WeHome, a smart home system based on WeChat, the most popular social media in China. WeHome dedicates to helping users conveniently control normal appliances. The main functions are:
This project mainly focused on technology development.
Launched a survey to gather information about users
Conducted literature review on existing products and technologies
From survey results, we found most people are reluctant to download apps, especially when it comes to home security. And some people think it's not worthy to buy smart appliances if they cost too much.
We also identified user needs of smart home system, including:
Due to time limits, we decided to focus on highlighted points.
In addition, we conducted thorough research on existing products, and determined the technologies that we were going to use.
The survey was launched online. We had 102 participants who took the survey. Based on their feedback, we identified pain points below.
We also identified several functions that people mostly demand. The following graph is presenting our main findings.
Based on our research on existing products and technologies, we found out that wireless is a crucial requirement for smart appliances. We compared several wireless technologies and eventually decided to use ZigBee as our core technology, since it is safer and more power-saving. And these two advantages are very important to smart appliances. The following chart compares different wireless technologies in several weighted aspects.
We also decided to use WeChat as our application platform due to the reasons below.
Structured our original system design
Paper-sketched our physical prototype
Asked feedback from experts
In the end, we preliminarily decided our system would contain the following core functions.
Turn on / off appliances
Adjust light brightness
Monitor temperature and humidity
Set up timers for appliances
To provide users more control freedom, we developed 3 control modes, including:
This session was to specify our system functions, structuring system frame. With survey results, we made informed decisions about functions as follows:
We also structured our system frame, determining connection details from WeChat to appliances.
To tackle the problem that most smart appliances are too expensive, we managed to "update" normal appliances by using smart sockets. This smart socket will contain ZigBee inside. We paper-sketched our socket prototype as follows.
After finished the original design, we asked feedback from experts about the feasibility and novelty. The experts gave us positive opinions. They also helped us confirm that the functions we planned to implement are feasible.
This prototype contains two parts: physical prototype (ZigBee development) and software prototype (WeChat development).
For physical prototype, we reformed sockets and upgraded them to smart sockets.
For software prototype, we utilized WeChat Official Account to implement our 3 control modes.
Voice Control Mode
Text-input Control Mode
Interface Control Mode — Phone
We also implemented interface control on tablet, which is even better to control.
Interface Control Mode — Tablet
After we finished the prototype, we recruited several users to go through our prototype. By conducting user testing, we got their impressions and identified issues 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 out:
Based on the feedback we received, we provided the following recommendations for further improvement:
As a sophomore, getting involved in a project like this can be really exciting and also challenging. 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 industry people.
During this project, I practiced my skills in both design and coding. The most important thing I acquired was the ability to solve problems independently. I learned how to adjust myself and find the solution when things are stuck. Being patient and positive, you will finally sort it out!