The project at-a-glance
- UX project to redesign interface of utilities management device
- User-centred and iterative design approach involving consultative customer workshops
- Collaboration with client, users and third-party technical team
- Designed for maximum accessibility, industry compliance and user engagement
Guru Systems wanted to take a more user-centred approach to the release of their second in-home smart utility hub.
The embedded device works by capturing data from meters across the entire heat network within a multi-dwelling unit (MDU). This data is then used to support both accurate billing and better heat network performance, with Machine learning-driven algorithms helping facilities managers diagnose possible problems with heat provision in the building.
However, in a bid to further improve both energy inefficiencies and reduce customer debt – two notable problems in the industry – Guru Systems sought to deliver even greater capabilities, driven by intuitive technology.
New functionality would include the flexibility to monitor data from up to five utility meters, plus a secure pay-as-you go service, enabling the easy management of tariffs and payments – particularly important for vulnerable individuals.
But as the system became more feature rich, it was crucial that customers using Guru Hub II in their homes could better engage with the data at their fingertips, rather than finding the advancement complex.
"The ongoing digitalisation of energy in the home will reap multiple benefits, both for the UK’s decarbonisation strategy, and the management of transparent, cost-effective heat networks for customers. This is our specialty – in fact Guru Systems has captured more than 3bn metrics over the past eight years to support this agenda”
"But to truly make the most of this data – and empower our clients to do the same – the design and performance of our system is crucial."
CEO, Guru Systems
Introduced to IDS Group via recommendation, Guru Systems’ brief centred on leveraging the team’s UX and UI skill-set. Charged with designing the interface for Guru Hub II, we engaged the project with a user-centred approach, which included the organisation and management of focus groups with tenants.
These practical discovery sessions enabled IDS to truly understand elements such as how diverse customers interact with the smart devices, how they monitor energy usage, how they’d use a top up facility, and any usability problems they encounter.
Armed with this insight, we designed a new prototype interface which was both detailed yet accessible – reflecting the range of ages, cultures and technical literacy of the people who would be using it. The goal was to ensure it could be used with minimal to no instructions or device training. Our UX designers therefore focused on the delivery of a clean, intuitive user journey capable of distinctly displaying key points of information for maximum ease of understanding, and with a clear path as to where to go next – all on a 5” touchscreen panel mounted to the wall.
The system design project also had to comply with a number of industry standards, regulations and codes set by governing bodies such as CfSH ENE3, Heat Network and the Heat Trust Scheme. And IDS consulted with Guru Systems’ embedded device technology provider, based in Germany, throughout, as naturally the new design had to fit within the parameters of the existing platform.
A second tenant forum was scheduled to fully test the usability of the first iteration of the newly designed Hub, and a collaborative process between Guru Systems, the technical team, users, and IDS, resulted in the final refinement of the interface.
This inclusive UX and UI project resulted in the development of a next generation smart solution, which delivers a more efficient and engaging service to operators and residents alike.
The beauty of the new interface is its simplicity – it is practically self-explanatory in terms of usability, with no detriment to the depth of information delivered to the customer. Nothing is there for purely aesthetic reasons. Instead, the priority was for the visuals to be functional, informative, and engaging.
High contrast fonts and easy to use buttons have been utilised throughout, and simple considerations such as a sleep mode with minimal glow means residents don’t risk being kept awake at night due to the device’s illumination.
Once completed, the prototype was supplied to Guru Systems’ development team, to be built and IDS delivered multiple 3D renders of the new-look Hub, for use in marketing materials.
Guru Hub II has been installed in thousands of homes on heat networks in the UK
It is now the most advanced smart utility monitoring and payment system available on the market