ABB Renewable Energy
August 2018 - December 2018
Today, ABB’s Industrial Automation Power Generation (IAPG) business primarily serves large utility-scale power generation facilities around the world by providing automation and control systems that safely and efficiency operate electrical power plants, providing electricity to billions of people on the planet.
As we move forward to a cleaner and lower carbon future, IAPG developed a Renewable Energy Management System designed to manage small-scale “behind the meter” energy assets including photovoltaics, combined heat and power systems, electricity storage, EV charging, and more.
The challenge for ABB IAPG to compete in this space is that we must provide a solution that meets the needs of “behind the meter” customers inducing industrial or manufacturing facilities, commercial buildings, small municipalities, hospitals, and universities. These customers, and their primary end users, are not traditional power plant operators. They do not have the staff to monitor, optimize, control, and run these systems 24/7.
University Utility Managers
ABB IAPG does have intimate knowledge of the end users in this market and therefore do not know how best to design the UI/UX.
Understand, for the University market segment (customer), who the end users may be and what their needs are related to renewable energy management.
Given these needs, design a UI/UX that satisfies 1-2 primary use cases while providing a user experience for the end user that meets the expectations of someone in this market segment (e.g. university utility plant operations staff).
The primary customer focus for the research and project will be universities, and more specifically, the energy plant managers or people in charge of energy management at universities.
These users are experts and have lots of experience using energy management systems and this will be one of our main constraints to design towards. The typical user of this system needs an easy way to see important current conditions quickly. The system should also be able to convey that the diagnostics of the energy consumption are working and that it is automatically working. A few things that will be important to the user are reliability, optimization, and cost management.
We focused on the following two use cases for the duration of this project:
Minimize electricity cost
Minimize peak energy consumption from the grid
To get a better grip on the project and what we were dealing with, my team and I researched our user group, their background, and current job role, as well as what their priorities and goals are, and what pain points they have. We also researched how energy is allocated currently in universities and what they are doing with renewables. Our methods were:
Secondary Research Interviews Co-Design Competitive Analysis
Most of my team's Secondary Research consisted of research into more about energy, electricity, and energy management. We came into this project without a very strong understanding in any of these ideas, so we needed to start off with strong secondary research to get us well acquainted with this information. Our Secondary provided the footing for our group to begin to understand more about this field.
With the gained knowledge of industry standards and language we were able to go into our primary research with enough knowledge to be able to speak to an expert in the field. Because of this we were able to build a strong repertoire with our users.
In order to kick off the design phase of this project, we looked to our results from our research and co-design in order to inform our design decisions.
We started off by diverging and whiteboarding the layout of the REMS as well as figuring out the content that needed to be included on each page.
We then dove into sketching with several 2-3 minute rounds of sketching. Individually, we started off with an idea/layout for the REMS, then built upon our sketches with each round.
At the end, we came together and consolidated the most important parts of our sketches and transitioned into wireframes.
After we agreed on the final features, we knew we needed to create a final mockup that allowed the user to see current conditions quickly. The features we included in our final wires were:
Executive Summary Screen
Create Reports (Individual and Comparison)
From our interviews, co-design, and other research, we found that these features were the most important for energy managers to see on a daily basis and for them to be able to use a tool efficiently. Below is a gallery of our mockup screens.
The overall goal of our redesign was to help the user manage their energy site more efficiently and effectively. Click See More to run through our wireframe