Despite its rapid development, smart home system is still not very attractive to most people.

  • People are unwilling to download so many apps on their phones.
  • Smart appliances can be very expensive.


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:

  • Gathering environment information, such as temperature.
  • Turning on/off appliances.
  • Adjusting light brightness.
  • Setting timers for appliances.


Team Members

Yunxi Tang, Jianfeng Shi, Bin Huang

Time Frame

May 2015 — May 2016

Key Words

Smart Home | ZigBee | WeChat

My Role

Conducted detailed research on existing smart home products; designed and built the hardware prototype; developed a part of system functions; conducted user testing



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Launched a survey to gather information about users

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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:

  • Monitoring interior environment, such as temperature, humidity, and smoke alarm.
  • Controlling the switches of appliances.
  • Setting timers for certain appliances, such as turning off light in 15 minutes after sleep time.
  • Enabling appliances to automatically adjust themselves to the interior environment. For example, the fan will automatically turn on beyond a certain room temperature.

WeHome specializes in the above hightlighted points. In addition, we conducted a thorough research on existing products to choose the best-fit technologies.

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We had 102 participants for our online survey, who provided valuable feedback on their pain points.

  • Some participants think smart appliances are expensive, and normal appliances already satisfy their needs.
  • Some participants are upset about about downloading and trying dozens of unusable apps to find the one that works.

We also identified several functions in the highest demand.

survey pie chart

Literature Review

"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.

zigbee, wifi, bluetooth comparison

We also decided to use WeChat as our application platform because:

  • WeChat is the most popular SNS in China.
  • WeChat provides flexible and unrestrained development space for innovation and imagination.


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Structured our original system design

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Paper-sketched our physical prototype

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Asked feedback from experts

Finally, the core functions of WeHome are:

We developed 3 control modes for users with different preferences and needs, including:

key functions

Structure Design

This session is to specify our system functions and structure the system frame. We made informed decisions on functions as follows:

  • Turn on/off appliances including the most commonly used ones such as lamps, fans, and humidifiers.
  • Adjust light brightness in 5 levels to accommodate various occasions and usages.
  • Monitor interior environment temperature and humidity.
  • Set timers for fans, lamps, and humidifiers. This function has high appeals as many people expect to remotely turn on the fan to pre-cool the house down or have the company of a night lamp for a while longer.

We also structured our system frame, determining the connection details from WeChat to the appliances.

framework of system

Paper Sketch

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.

paper sketch

Expert Feedback

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.


voice control

Voice Control Mode

text input control

Text-input Control Mode

interface control

Interface Control Mode — Phone

interface control on tablet

Interface Control Mode — Tablet


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.




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Control Modes

Voice control, text-input control, interface control

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Each participant tested all three control modes in random order

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Metrics Measured

Learnability, efficiency, error and satisfication

In the next step, we conducted user testing for their review and identified certain drawbacks in our design.


The graphs below is an overall evaluation on our design. We found that:

  • All three control modes of our system are easy to learn. The instruction is very clear.
  • Poor internet can have a impact on our system. Slow internet transmission leads to slow feedback and minimizes user experience.
  • "Interface Control" is the most intuitive control mode in all three.
  • Users expect more functions, for example, fire alarm, and automatic adjustment.
evaluation result


Based on the feedback we received, we recommend the following for further improvement:

  • Implement more sensors for environment information, for example, smoke and luminous intensity.
  • Realize the functionality of automatic self-adjusting appliances to environment change, for example, self-controlling fans according to temperature.
  • Optimize the design of our sockets for better appearance.
  • Implement the functionality of privacy control. Create use account system to make it possible for multiple users to share one WeChat Official Account.
  • Optimize the user interface. Provide feedback to users for each function accordingly.
  • Enable users to add or delete appliances anytime and control with more freedom.


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.