Why are we doing this?
New York City has some of the most expensive real estate in the world, and some of the most poorly climate-controlled urban habitats in the country. For the most part, the prewar brownstones and row houses that originally were built as a single family dwellings have been subdivided into separate apartments; and the fireplaces common to each floor have been replaced by a single central heating system and a lone thermostat.
For most tenants of these retrofitted buildings, the Goldilocks paradigm is in full effect in winter: too hot or too cold is a far more common experience than the actual reading of the thermostat. Since a single floor sets the heating level for the entire building, many rooms are far too cold, while others are stifling hot.
Ideally, the entirety of old heating systems would be replaced by modern efficient HVAC systems. But as any resident of NYC will tell you, getting your landlord to do anything (let alone change the heating) is a process that takes years. Additionally, there is an environmental opportunity cost to performing a major retrofit of any old building, such as the fuel consumed by work trucks, the manufacturing process of new heating equipment, and the disposal of old water tanks and pipes.
What’s an apartment dweller to do? Wake up and crack the window at 3AM when the heat turns on, only to close it when she can see her breath by 5AM? In fact, yes: repeatedly opening and closing windows in NYC is a staple habit of the winter season.
What are we proposing?
We wondered, could such a simple mechanical action be replaced by an inexpensive automated system? Rather than waiting for the temperature to climb into the high 80s, could air be permitted to circulate before one felt the stifling heat? Just as window fans have temperature controls that bring in cool air in the summer, could we create a system that let out hot air when it was too hot, but sealed out drafts when the temperature was just right?
What would the out of box experience look like?
The first thing the user sees when they open the packaging of “THE DRAFTMASTER” is the elegant design and sleek finish of the instruction manual. The user takes the manual out of the box to reveal the padded unit sitting underneath and a box made of recycled cardboard that holds all essential screws, the temperature sensor and the physical interface, both compact in size. Stickers on the unit direct the user to the manual for installation instructions.
The user unfolds the manual to see a simple 5-step installation process that walks the user through the correct way to mount the unit in the window and afterwards download the app and sync the unit and temperature sensor with it. the instructions include recommendations on which window to best mount the unit in and how to ensure secure and safe mounting. Mounting is made simple by the two separate rails that are attached the the window ledge and window frame first before attaching the main unit. The user can mount the entire unit without the assistance of another person.
After installing the unit in the window the instruction point to a website that the user can visit on their phone to download the proprietary app for the unit. The app then leads the user through a step-by-step installation that includes syncing the device to the available wi-fi network as well as the temperature sensor and physical interface. These steps cover both the software-related components (i.e. wi-fi network and connected to the temperature sensor) as well as hardware-related steps like pulling out the battery tabs on the temperature sensor and testing the physical interface. This way the user learns how to use the system while setting it up for the first time. Another useful component of the app is that there are help icons every step of the way that allows the user to directly dial customer service should they have any questions or issues regarding the setup process. Furthermore, the setup guide can be accessed as tutorials at any given point through the main menu of the app to ensure fast and easy access to help.
Once all the steps have been completed the unit is ready to be used.
The last two weeks we spent discussing the details of the design and functionalities we want “THE DRAFTMASTER” to have. It’s important for us to distinguish between the most important use cases without losing sight of the core idea, which is an automated system that does the thinking for you. We discussed system overrides by the users, how other products (particularly the Nest, alarm clocks, etc.) do this and how we can differentiate between knowing what the user wants at a given moment and the system knowing better.
We mapped out all the details for the build and interactions and consolidated them in the diagram below:
The main micro controller will be a YÚN (UNO is pictured), and we will use Yahoo! Weather API to compare the local outdoor temperature to the indoor temp from our sensor.
From there we went on to create our BOM (Bill Of Materials) to ensure we have everything to start our alpha build.