Analysing co-design methods applied to energy-related smart home technologies

Research output: Contribution to book/anthology/report/conference proceedingConference abstract in proceedingResearch


Smart Home Technologies (SHTs) may play an important role in the energy transition due to artificial intelligence-powered appliances that can produce, store, and interpret users' data to support changes in everyday practices such as energy-saving. Despite its disruptive character in householders` everyday life, the development of SHTs have been pushed by the smart tech industry based on a techno-economic perspective, lacking a better understanding of how distinct groups in society engage and respond to such technology (Wilson, Hargreaves & Hauxwell-Baldwin, 2015).

Based on these issues and following a growing body of literature advocating co-created smart technology, we aimed to investigate co-design methods and their use in promoting the development of socially and environmentally sustainable SHTs. Doing so, we intended to answer the following questions: (i) Which theories have been used to explain the collaborative development of SHTs? (ii) What are the prevalent characteristics of co-design among the analysed works? (iii) What are the respective strengths and weaknesses of the methods?

A literature analysis was undertaken through a systematic search in four databases – Scopus, Science Direct, Proquest, and Springer – where 128 peer-reviewed journal and conference articles were retrieved. In the first selection round, the documents were analysed by title, abstract and keywords, retrieving 26 articles for the second selection round that considered the participants' engagement level. Based on the literature on participatory methods (Sanders & Stappers, 2008; Robertson & Simonsen, 2012; Steen, 2013), six characteristics were used to measure the engagement level: (i) participants assuming an active role during the study, (ii) social practices and/or values leading the process, (iii) the deployment of design methods and tools, (iv) leading researchers assuming alternative roles, (v) decision-making power was shared among participants and researchers, and (vi) the indication of a mutual learning process. Then, the studies were divided into three categories: low, moderate, and high level of engagement.

The main results of the literature analysis – focusing on studies with a high level of engagement – have shown that co-design experiences had a substantial effect on making energy visible to householders and effect on reframing their energy-related practices, as they were treated as experts of their own experiences with SHTs and active agents in the process. With regard to methods, all selected studies deployed a set of tools and techniques from multidisciplinary fields, such as focus groups, ethnographies, interviews, prompt cards, personal diaries, web blogs, probes, prototypes, context mapping, etc. Experiences with multi-stakeholders workshops seem to be more efficient for co-created prototypes, incorporating social aspects into the technical process of the product. However, co-design is not limited to a physical object, it can also be applied to design systems and strategies to understand the technical phenomena; its success depends on establishing a collaborative relationship with social groups affected by the product/service being designed.

Further understanding of the methods mentioned above is needed to identify why some provide more engagement than others. The engagement scale can help in the analysis; hence, it is important to make it more robust, crossing it with other participatory frameworks – e.g., the Ten Essentials of Transformative Research (Fazey et al., 2018) or the Arnstein's Ladder of Citizen Participation.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationeceee 2022 Summer Study on energy efficiency : Agents of change
Number of pages1
PublisherEuropean Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, ECEEE
Publication date8 Jun 2022
ISBN (Print)978-91-988270-1-9 (print)
ISBN (Electronic)978-91-988270-0-2 (online)
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jun 2022
Eventeceee Summer Study on Energy Efficiency: Agents of Change - Hyères, France
Duration: 6 Jun 202211 Jun 2022


Conferenceeceee Summer Study on Energy Efficiency
Internet address
SeriesEceee Summer Study proceedings (online)


  • Co-Design
  • Smart Home
  • Energy Consumption
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Sustainable Transitions


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