Enki EnergyVisualizing Data for a Sustainably Powered Kitchen
Enki Energy's biodigester is a biomechanical machine that digests organic waste, such as stale bread, into methane. This methane powers the stove of a communal kitchen in a housing complex in Amersfoort. Because the kitchen is physically separated from the biodigester, residents are not aware of how the system works and the process to power their stove, which poses challenges when it comes to cooking in their kitchen.
Through our field and user research, we uncovered three main problem spaces.. There was no indication of the remaining gas in the biodigester, which meant residents would begin cooking and then run out of gas in the middle of the process. If the biodigester needed to be refilled with bread or there were issues with the system, the maintenance responsibilities rested entirely on two assigned residents. Because the biodigester is not an everyday technology, it was hard to understand how it worked, and this lack of knowledge caused various issues when not maintained properly.
Knowledge is Power
We created an interactive light system that enables residents to cook without stress, helps them understand the biodigester process, and empowers them to participate in the circular economy.
This system connects the biodigester to the communal kitchen space, with an LED strip leading to the stove. Since this community in Amersfoort is culturally diverse and multilingual, we chose to communicate with light and colour, rather than words, since these can be universally understood. The LED strip transitions in color and brightness as the available amount of gas decreases. The colour of the LED strip communicates to residents when they need to take action and refill the biodigester with bread.
The tablet interface is placed above the stove and shows the amount of cooking time available. It calculates the time available based on the number and size of stove burners used. When there is little cooking time left, or there is an error within the system, the residents are informed by notifications with clear instructions on how to resolve this. Enabling the residents with this information helps them divide the gas wisely for their own cooking but also out of consideration for the other residents.
Powering it up
Our solution needed to reposition a complex system to be manageable and understandable, while addressing a user group that is very diverse in cultural backgrounds, language, education and digital literacy. The language barriers made it essential to communicate through visuals as much as possible. Over the course of four weeks, we gradually got to know our user group and their needs by visiting their weekly cooking classes. They were very open to participating in our project and testing our prototypes, which helped us address these challenges and drive us towards a solution that would be tailored specifically to them.
Our solution provides the Amersfoort residents with the necessary information to have a stress-free cooking experience, while also enabling them to take ownership of maintaining the biodigester and the communal kitchen. Enki Energy plans to implement this system into the communal kitchen in Amersfoort.