Alternative energy and the promise of clean, reliable power has an allure, but power meters and electric vehicle chargers aren't all that exciting. Frog design wants to change that. The firm has joined with the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative (SGCC)—a nonprofit amalgam of vendors, utilities, suppliers, and consumer advocacy groups—to help make smart grid-related products more user-friendly.
Smart energy products are still in their infancy. While plenty of tools exist to help homeowners track their power use, the majority of them don't actively help consumers do anything about their excessive energy use. "We are in the era of awareness tech," explains David Merkoski, Executive Creative Director at frog design. "The next era is products and services that move into behavior design."
We can already see hints of that next era coming down the pipeline—GE's smart grid aware appliances, for example, which will display energy prices and automatically switch on when electricity is cheapest. But there's a reason that many of these behavior-oriented products haven't been released yet: Companies want to make sure that their design is spot-on. Because if electric vehicle home charging stations or smart appliances are too difficult to use in the first generation, customers will be less likely to pay attention to the next generation.
"If you can bring in design to the table before it goes mainstream—that scale moment—whatever that invention is has a much higher likelihood of being adopted," Merkoski says. "Companies are taking a serious shift in their strategy to make sure design is involved before products go to market."
And of course, frog design wants to be involved in that new strategy, which is why the firm is hosting a session at the SGCC's annual summit in September followed by a full-day session in October that will offer more developed design solutions to the public.