End-User Development of Automations for Explainable Green Smart Homes

The increasing availability of sensors, connected objects and intelligent services has made it possible to obtain smart homes able to
support automations involving dynamic composition of objects, services, and devices. Since each household has specific needs and
preferences which can also vary over time, it is crucial to empower its users to directly control such automations, even when people
have no programming experience. Existing software development life cycles typically involve only technical people and are slow to
respond to the evolving needs of different types of user, also because professional developers often lack the domain knowledge to
address user requirements. Thus, a viable way to make applications better comply with users' expectations is to make users capable
of 'programming' the intended behaviour through suitable automations.
Automations can be helpful to support achievement of various types of goals. In this project, we will focus on how to support goals
consistent with the principles of a circular economy (such as energy saving and waste recycling). To this goal, a set of tools and
technologies will be designed, prototyped, and deployed in real home environments to analyse their impact in daily life, and actual
ability to empower end users in realising their automation needs. They include meta-design tools for creating new automations that better fit their needs and controlling those active in the home, innovative modalities to control and create automations based on
conversational agents and augmented reality, and a home Digital Twin useful for supporting simulations and “what if” analysis to
understand the potential impact of specific automations on aspects relevant for circular economy.
In the project, AI-based techniques will also be used to suggest recommendations to users, by providing rule-based automations
judged appropriate in specific situations, also explaining to them the “what, why and how” of such recommendations. Explanations
will also be provided by the system to help users evaluate specific non-functional requirements of automations, i.e. their
“sustainability”, such as their impact on energy consumption or saving. Specific techniques will also be developed to highlight
potential errors inadvertently included while users specify rules, or issues existing in their current rule sets (e.g. conflicts between
rules): in particular, clear and understandable explanations will be provided to users, describing the problem and why a specific
modification would be needed to resolve it.
The project will follow a human-centred approach in which end users will be continuously involved starting from the requirement
phase through interviews, questionnaires, and focus groups; usability laboratory tests on the initial prototypes; and longitudinal
studies during which the developed prototypes will be deployed in some homes for analysing their use and impact over longer
periods of time “in the wild”.


25 Months

Financial Institution