UX Design and Research • Winter 2015–Summer 2015
Kin is a smart home system designed to give users total control over their personal data settings and privacy. Through the Kin Android app, homeowners can manage their data permissions and set up routines for all of their smart devices through a single, centralized digital hub.
This capstone project was sponsored by Bosch and completed as part of my MHCI program.
The rise of sensor-based technology and the Internet of Things (IoT) has generated public concern about personal data security and privacy. Companies now have a greater responsibility to educate consumers about the associated risks of using such technologies. Bosch asked us to explore a data management system that simultaneously lets users retain full control of their information and enjoy the benefits of a modern smart home.
Since smart home technologies have only been around for a few years and most have still yet to adopt them, our main objective was to evaluate people’s understanding of how they worked with regards to security and privacy. We conducted research with participants including college students, working professionals, parents, and elderly folks.
Some of the research methods we used included interviews, speed dating, and user enactment. Throughout all of our research activities, our goal was to provide participants with an appropriate context that would encourage them to think freely about a futuristic smart home system--to temporarily suspend disbelief to provide valuable feedback.
Participants Wanted to Physically See and Control Their Data
Participants repeatedly expressed the need to be able to “hold” and manipulate data with their hands. Regardless of how intelligent their smart home may be, they wanted something tangible that they could interact with, such as a UI accessible via a smartphone or tablet. It was these interactions with physical devices that reinforced their perceived sense of control.
Participants Didn’t Want the System to Replace Them
A common fear was that as sensor technology becomes increasingly sophisticated, it has the detrimental side effect of changing how humans interact with one another. Participants didn't want their smart home to undermine their interpersonal relationships nor supplant the quality, human-to-human connections they experienced on a regular basis.
Participants Wanted an "Off" Button
The idea of living with a contextually-aware smart home system intimidated some participants. One individual exclaimed, "If I am living in a smart home, I would like a dark space where I know there is no sensing." They wanted to be able to disable all data-related functionalities at a moment’s notice.
My teammates and I produced an Android app prototype named “Kin,” which lets users:
- Manage devices and data
- Configure routines
- Remotely monitor their smart home
- Share access with others
With Kin, homeowners get to decide who has access to the data collected by their smart devices and how it’s used.
It also facilitates communication between the smart home and its devices to enable users to configure routines. A routine consists of at least one trigger event that results in one or more corresponding actions. For example, “When my smart fridge senses that food has expired, send a push notification to my smartphone.”
Moreover, Kin enables users to monitor home activity from afar and change access remotely if needed. Homeowners also have option to set up guest profiles with user-defined access permissions.
By putting control back in the users’ hands, Kin is the first step in designing a more welcoming, friendly smart home system. For more information, visit our project website.