What is Energy Saving Emily?

See more about the problem space and the concept developed.

The Energy Saving Emily Created

Learn about the core functionality of the prototype and how you're meant to interact with it.

How was Energy Saving Emily Built?

See the behind the scenes of the contruction and materials used.

The Design Process

See the decisions made through the design process.

Project Outcomes

A reflection on the final product and the overall outcomes.

What is Energy Saving Emily?

Energy efficiency in Australia has taken a significant hit in recent years. In 2018, Australia was recognised as the worst-performing major developed country in the world for energy efficiency [1]Energy Efficiency Council. 2018. Australia Ranks Worst For Energy Efficiency In Developed World. [online]. Household energy consumption was regarded as the second-biggest consumer of energy, with only 15% of Australians believing their home is extremely efficient. As environmental issues continue to grow, there is a large opportunity for Australian families to minimise their energy consumption and implement better energy-saving practices [2]. Mitsubishi Electric Australia. 2019. Home Trends Report. Home Trends Report 2019

The prototype’s focus is to “create an Energy Saving device that has interactions to annoy the user whilst positively changing their behaviours and mindset to become more efficient in the home”.

Who is it Designed For?

two people hold phones

The focus of this exploration is on homes and households with just adults. So this relates to partners, couples, or housemates living together. It was found through research that children have the most influence on their parents within the home as children learn about being environmentally friendly and sustainable in schools.

I took the perspective that adults have forgotten or are now too busy with their work lifestyles that they have forgotten the basics of being energy conscious, thus the Energy Saving Emily device will assist with that and improve their behaviours and habits.

The Concept

The Energy Saving "Emily" device that was created in this project takes the form of a wall installation. The inspiration for the shape and structure of my prototype came from a product called Helio Touch Lights [3]About Us | Helios Touch", Helios Touch, 2020. [Online].. "Emily" was to look modern and attractive in the home.

flowchart of the concept

"Emily" will incorporate some annoyances but will only occur when the user is doing something wrong. As for the negative reinforcement, "Emily" will praise the users if they start to do right things at home. I want "Emily" to be a positive influence and she has to whilst showing some emotion too. By praising or showing happy/bright colours as this allows a user to gain trust in the technology and they feel comfortable using it and will then begin to change their behaviours for saving energy. If "Emily" is not happy with the energy saving currently in the home, then lights, sounds and vibration have been included as other features of to add to the annoying (but playful) experience. The user will most probably be frustrated by the alarms and will have to switch off. This in turn allows household members to think more closely of their habits and behaviours and possibly change them for the long-term to keep "Emily" happy.

View Concept Video

How it Works

"Emily" works by creating change through discomfort! "Emily" is intended to annoy the user in a lighthearted manner rather than a serious way. The main behavioural change occurring through “Negative Reinforcement”

Definition: Negative Reinforcement, a response or behavior is strengthened by stopping, removing, or avoiding a negative outcome or aversive stimulus. [4]. (Skinner, B. F. (1963). Operant behavior. American Psychologist, 18(8), 503-515. doi:10.1037/h0045185)

It is not the goal to make the user not feel so uncomfortable that they don’t trust "Emily" or avoid the device but enough to make them notice the device and want to alter its outputs. "Emily" puts the user in a negative position by calling out what they are doing wrong. This creates a desire to change within the user which then creates a positive effect on their next energy consumption decision. "Emily" will encourage the user to alter their habits, whether that be because they want "Emily" to stop harassing them or they dislike seeing the negative outputs such as red lights, nagging voices or constant vibrating on the wall.

Below are some examples of negative reinforcement in action. "Emily" hopes to adopt this same principle but through reminders, alerts, lights and constant nagging!

negative reinforcement example 1

negative reinforcement example 1

The Ideal “Energy Saving Emily” Installed

“Emily” is an energy-saving home wall installation that monitors the household energy consumption. “Emily” alerts the household members if any of them are misusing energy in the home. This device is intended to assist household members in reducing their energy consumption, improving their bad habits and becoming more aware of their usage. This installation is ideally for a household who have other smart devices such as LED bulbs, thermostats and power socket timers.

Energy Saving Emily is in the form of a series of hexagons all connected and integrated into the home's energy network. “Emily” monitors the energy usage and efficiency of the home’s air conditioner, fans, lights, TV, and other electrical appliances. "Emily" can detect when there is presence in the home and make judgments on energy usage based on that.

In an ideal world “Emily” is also able to monitor the time of day and how much light is in the home, compare and regulate the inside temperature to the outside, and measure the water usage in the home and make appropriate judgments. Based on that monitoring data “Emily” is then able to react in two ways.

Misuse of energy in the home then:

  • Flashing Red lights to immediately gain the attention of a user
  • Vibration to attract the user
  • Speaking in the form of a nagging voice
  • Touch to turn off the alarms

Good use of energy in the home then:

  • Good verbal comments and praises
  • Green and Purple flashing lights
  • "Emily" to verbally let the household know if they have reduced their energy over a month
hexagons with alerts
paper with energy and behaviour

The Energy Saving Emily Created

The Energy Saving Emily wall installation you see here in this portfolio does not contain all the “ideal” features and interactions as hoped. The “Emily” you see here still monitors the users energy consumption in the home except this is through simulation. For the purpose of the demo of Energy Saving Emily a dial was added to simulate the user turning on or off a fan, light or air-conditioner. There is also a temperature sensor attached which compares the inside temperature to the outside. If the temperature inside the house does not require the use of a fan or air-condition, then "Emily" will alarm, otherwise she will be in a happy state. This does not fully reveal how the installation would work if connected to the smart home system but still shows the core features and the way “Emily” is to react!

Energy Saving Emily in Action

Learn about Energy Saving Emily below:

Colour States

These are the various colour states Emily will change to when in operation.

Standby or Idle State

good state

Emily is GREEN when energy saving is good

bad state

Emily turns RED when energy saving is poor

Emily's Comments

Emily has a series of phrases and comments she will say based on her mood and the efficiency of the home. Here are some examples:


You left the fan on

Good Work

Light left on!

Power Bill

Save Energy

User Demonstration

This is the concept video for the key interactions of Emily and how she works and why she does certain things.

Key Interactions

"Emily's" key interactions are linked to temperature (in this product). So when she is making a decision on whether a household member is being energy efficient, she will compare the temperature inside and outside and then base that information off the types of appliances running in the home at the time.

Standby/ Idle State: This is where Emily detects no movement in close proximity to her and will either show rainbow colours or red flashing lights depending on energy efficiency.

Good Energy Saving: If the user walks past in close proximity to Emily, if the user currently has an energy efficient home she will turn green and say "Good work you are saving energy"

Poor Energy Saving: If the turns on a fan or a light for example and leaves the room, Emily will immediatley detect this and begin alerting the user.

Poor Energy Saving & Ignorance: If a user has left the room or the house and continues to ignore Emily, she will start to say things like "are you using the fan still" or "you are wasting energy". The user will be drawn to these constant nags and cry for attention. The only way to turn her off by touching and actually turning off the energy source!

Emily's Comments: This is how Emily will speak depending if the user is being energy efficient or showing poor energy saving behaviours.

How was Energy Saving Emily Built?

Emily was inspired by Helios Touch [3]About Us | Helios Touch", Helios Touch, 2020. [Online].. The main hexagon shape was chosen as it was a modern choice and was something that could be placed in a person's home without attracting too much attention in terms of its physical form. The design of the shape was also designed for adults who live alone or as a couple. I did not want it to look too childish or immature. I wanted the design to be respected and take the form that this is an installation that can actually help the user change their behaviours and mindset around energy saving.

Technologies Used

Here are the core technologies used in Energy Saving Emily. Images provided by Tinkercad [5]"Tinkercad | From mind to design in minutes", 2020. [Online]. Available: https://www.tinkercad.com/..


The Arduino is responsible for powering the activity meter and ensuring its functionality.

ultrasonic sensor

This Ultrasonic Sensor detects movement in the room from a person, this information is recieved by the Arduino to respond with room monitoring.

capactive touch sensor

The capacitive touch, allows the user to physically turn off the alarms.

temperature sensor

The LM35 Temperature Sensor is responsible for monitoring the inside temperature within the home.

sd card reader

The SD Card Module allows, the sound effcts to be stored and played when required through the speaker.

vibrating mini motor

The vibration motor was alert the user when poor energy saving behaviour is occuring.


The speaker plays the comments Emily says and varies the volume to annoy the user.

LED strip

LED Strips were used to light up the inside of the hexagon based on Emily's moods. The lights also form apart of the attention seeking of the installation and notifying the user if they are misusing energy.


The potentiometer acts as a switch for an "artificial" source of energy. This allows the installtion to be simulated as it were connected to a home energy network.

The prototype was built using all materials found around the house along with sensors and LEDs pre-purchased. Please see my Journal & Miro board for detailed design decisions and sketches. I had 3D printed some hexagons prior to going into lockdown. I wanted to repurpose this object and make it usable for Energy Saving Emily. As the main feature of the Helio Touch is the lights and the touch feature, users have the ability to touch and change the lighting patterns instantly. I used touch as an annoying feature along with speaking to nag the user is not being energy efficient. The only way to turn off the annoying features is to touch the hexagon panels and turn off the energy source in the house.

Build Process

Energy Saving Emily went through a few iterations of design, interaction forms and core functionality included. Flip the pictures below to learn more.

Capacitive touch sensory established. Here I tested a range of materials to be suitable for the user to touch. This was difficult as each material had a different sensitivity number when touch and this meant tweaking the code to work for multiple hexagons. It was tested on a flat surface, so it needed to be fitted to a wall and touch sensitivity modified accordingly as the user will apply a different force when standing.

Complete prototype with two hexagons, lights, temperature sensor and ultrasonic sensor included. Users are able to touch hexagons to turn off the light. By establishing a base prototype I have lacked the opportunity to incorporate a playful/annoying aspect. The aim is to use this base to allow users to play with it and provide their feedback on what they would like to see it do.

Here is my prototype with the ultrasonic sensor connected. At this stage of building the ultrasonic sensor was attached to determine when a person was in a room and in close proximity to Emily. This enables Emily to “wake up” and alert the user if they are being or not being energy efficient.

Here I have connected the temperature sensor and vibrating mini motor to the backs of the hexagons. I had to modify the backing of the vibrating mini motor as the tone would rattle against the plastic. To fix this I used blutac to absorb some vibration.

Here I implemented a dial which acted as an “artificial” energy source. Since my demo had to be simulated I need to have a physical implement that a user could turn or push to pretend they are turning on a light or a fan.

I was initially just going to use the white hexagons as they are, however I had a lot of wiring and sensors connected and I wanted to hide some of this. I decided to create a wooden frame to border each hexagon.

Using paddle pop sticks and a hot glue gun this was created. I also had to hand saw each edge of the hexagon to make them flush.

This was my concept model used for the initial demo of the prototype.

This is the final look of the wall installation. Here I have hot glued all the components together and tied back all the wires at the center hexagon.

The Design Process

design process

My Goals for Implementation & Discovery

  1. Ability to test and receive feedback for the physical interactions of the prototype
  2. Creating a prototype that will implement all intended features
  3. Drawing on resources to construct and build the working prototype
  4. Creating a prototype that meets the “playful” component of the criteria
  5. Research into discomforts/annoyances adults feel through technology


See my MIRO board for all the findings

Above were my goals for the implementation of Energy Saving Emily and what I wanted to achieve in terms of user interactions, creativity in the build and what the overall features I wanted to be included.

In the initial discovery and ideas phase, I completed some research and discoveries through user observations, reading into online forums and watching relevant YouTube videos and looking into annoying features in smart devices.

In the live observations, it was also interesting to see that in the two individuals living alone they used the clothes dryer rather than air drying on a perfectly sunny day. It can be highlighted that education and behaviour correction may be needed to make people more energy conscious and think about when and how to use energy in the home.

One interesting find on YouTube was the notification prank [6]"whatever. 2014. NOTIFICATION PRANK. Available at: https://youtu.be/CwhOjyTXMyo. It was a social experiment where the classic notification sound goes off in public and they wanted to see how many people would look at their own phone. I found this interesting using a recognisable sound to annoy a user to do the right thing.

I drew on as much information I could to develop “Emily” into something that is “annoying” but improves the behaviour of the user/s. The online “house mums forums” & “home energy saving forums” highlighted for me that a lot of people are just looking for a solution to hide their flaws and would rather something do their task rather than them thinking about it. Meaning people are becoming lazy! From all my research it was highlighted that education and behaviour correction is needed to make people more energy conscious and think about when and how to use energy in the home.

Project Outcomes

flowchart of the concept

This project and course was nothing how I imagined it to be when I first signed up to it at the start of February this year. The biggest challenge was no doubt working a design project through a pandemic. However, as seen in this portfolio and the efforts of my creation you can see that I overcame this major obstacle and produced something that has potential to “create an Energy Saving device that has interactions to annoy the user whilst positively changing their behaviours and mindset to become more efficient in the home”.

There are major differences between my actual and ideal product and I think by working towards an end goal, I have achieved most of the functionality. The ideal prototype was to be connected to a Smart Home network and utilise the energy readings from the home to feed into Energy Saving Emily. I guess without this, my project’s focus was more on the behavioural and mindset change of the user and getting them familiar with a device that constantly nags, alerts and notifies them when they are no being energy efficient.

flowchart of the concept

I would like to explore the potential to set up an “artificial” home. Where in a room I connect a series of smart LEDs, socket timers and other smart devices. I would have liked to see how “Emily” would have been incorporated into this artificial home and how the behaviours of the user would change.

There are a range of annoying features incorporated in “Emily” and they form part of the playful behaviour as well as negative reinforcement. I would have liked to explore the psychology around negative and positive reinforcement and see whether there are other methods to improving people’s bad habits.

Overall, this course has definitely been a rollercoaster and I am happy to be at the end of it now. The course staff and tutors did an amazing job transiting all of the group, workshop and studio sessions online to make them run seamlessly. Thank you.

Online Exhibit Outcome

The Discord Live Exhibit Session was a whole new experience!

Being a 3-hour session, it was initially slow to begin with. And my team and I decided to sit in our team room and organise how we would approach anyone who would enter the team audio channel. Once we started having more guests appear it became easier to present the product and talk about the concept and the reasoning behind the design. Discord was a little glitchy at times, and would shut off and cut off my audio from time to time, but this was manageable. This experience could not compare to an in person exhibit where you would have more traction from people. Overall, I am happy to have been a part of this course and experience building a physical computing project through a pandemic!

About Me

Hello, my name is Rhea Albuquerque and this is my portfolio showcasing my Physical Computing project. I am studying my final semester at the University of Queensland completing a Bachelor of Chemical Engineering and Bachelor of Information Technology dual degree. During my degree I have learnt many technical and practical design skills that have equipped me to showcase what I have in this portfolio. I have always had a keen interest in the design side of things and that is why I went down the path of UX Design. I hope you enjoy my portfolio and my project!

Energy Saving Emily concept was developed by the team Negative Nancies. Energy Saving Emily is a household device that encourages users to minimise energy consumption within their own home. My Team and I worked on defining the problem space and context for use. We each took an individual approach to design, building and creating Energy Saving Emily. Feel free to get in contact with any of my other team members too!

Profile of me

Contact Me

Email: rhea.albuquerque@uq.edu.au

Other Resources

Here are some other resources from my project.