Rapid prototyping: An electrification solution in 10 hours or less!

Powerhouse, a venture fund in Oakland, hosts an annual hackathon for solutions that will accelerate clean energy around the world. Clean Energy industry companies issue challenges and teams form on Friday night and hack on solutions until the following day at 6PM.

The Goal

Silicon Valley Clean Energy issued a challenge on how to retrofit single family homes to all-electric; they asked teams to "propose solutions to accelerate electrifying existing single-family homes by addressing one or more of the key barriers." Our team decided to focus on the barrier of "limited visibility into appliance types in customer homes, which impacts the ability to target messages/programs"

Our Solution

Team Retro decided to create a target households that might benefit from electrification and then present those account holders with an electrification recommendation based on the types of appliances present in the home and the customer’s relationship to their residence (homeowner, landlord, or tenant).

My Contribution

My contribution was to guide the initial problem exploration, design the survey and messaging and prototype it in Sketch. I also got to represent our team for the 3 minute pitch, which was quite an adrenaline rush!

Setting an aspirational, lifestyle-focused tone with imagery and text.

The "Ah-hah" Moment

As we were trying to analyze the cost benefit of electric versus gas water heaters, I thought to myself "this is such a hassle, they look almost the same."

It's difficult for customers to accurately answer text surveys about these appliances because they don't know how to identify what they have based on text descriptions. From that moment forward the target became clear. The recommender survey must be short, emotionally appealing and highly visual.

I created an image-based survey that would help customers identify the key appliances for electrification program targeting based on what they can see about their appliances. Selecting an image option discloses brief suggestions about how to identify the appliance in question. Recommendation messages focus on both “hard” financial and and “soft” emotional benefits that the customer would receive from converting to electric rather than cost savings alone.

Visual context makes it easier to identify appliance types. See prototype on Sketch.cloud.

Learnings and Next Steps

Given more time, I would love to test this survey design with users to see if my hunch is correct -- that visuals + cues provide more accurate appliance identification. I'd also love to apply more thought (and style) to the recommendation output. But it was great to see what a small team could accomplish in just under 10 hours!

Team Retro takes first place!