Housegreen is a smart home mobile application that focuses on helping people (Generation Z) in taking care of their house plants by introducing a new approach to maintaining a healthier indoor environment.
Humans have been domesticating plants and taking care of them for food and pleasure since the early stages of homo sapiens history. Today, taking care of house plants still exists as a common habit for general public households. As the Generation Z population gradually enters the workforce, their interest and passion in plants can open up new opportunities in the plant care product and service market. At the same time, new technology in image processing had been advancing and being applied in different industries. This new technology has the potential to provide more expert and convenient solutions for consumers to take care of their house plant.
Housegreen takes on this challenge by addressing how Generation Z might achieve successful plant care so that they can increase their indoor air quality and ultimately make an impact on the environment.
Research: Mikias Lema and Nick Zhou
Visual Design: Mikias Lema
Some of the challenges I encountered while working on the project were:
— Air quality index measurement and what factors have the most impact on it
— Image processing accuracy and reliability
— Seamlessly integrating plant care with the Internet of Things (IoT)
— Designing a consistent user experience and user interface for different IoTs
Research paper link.
We surveyed 34 targeted participants affiliated with the University of Washington and recently conducted one on one interviews with 4 additional participants to add variety to the user group which was not part of the initial research paper. Beyond demographics data, our questionnaire had the following general categories to understand how Generation Z interact and take care of their plants:
— Tracking plant health
— Plants treatment
— Plants’ value and emotions attached
— Interaction with plants
To get at people’s behaviors and pain points, we incorporated value sensitive design and journey mapping.
1. Lack of knowledge. While there is an increased interaction with plants, four out of five people use observation to assess their house plant's health which 90% of the time fails due to plant diseases that are not visible to the naked eye. Plant owners' lack of professional knowledge, tools, or skills to take care of the plant is a pain point for the research audience and a reason to threaten house plants' health. Not purchasing the right types of house plants is also another factor that contributes to the overall lack of knowledge.
2. Lack of emotional connection and authority. Most people use plants as decoration rather than as companions therefore they lack the emotional connection that is needed for successful plant care. Additionally, the lack of authority is seen due to limited resources on active plant care and treatments which lead to more plants being purchased and abandoned.
3. Current use of technology. We verified the use of technology surrounding house plants and found that two out of five people use their mobile devices to capture a photo of their plants to share on social media and/or for personal pleasure.
1. Alleviate mental load
2. Support emotional connection
3. Achieve informational design
When 90% of our lives are spent indoors it raises the question of how we can make our indoors healthier and best suited for a living environment. The question becomes more prominent today during a pandemic as more people are working from home for the foreseeable future. After intensive ideations and iterations that had the insights and design principles as a base, we have designed a solution that seamlessly blends into the Generation Z lifestyle.
Keeping a plant can have many health benefits to the household including increasing performance and reducing stress, improving indoor air quality, and helping make the interior more attractive. We found that for the average Gen Z when taking care of plants becomes part of other IoTs it shifts from being a chore to more of a routine. To alleviate mental load, Housegreen integrates plant care with IoTs mainly air purifiers and thermostats which collectively can produce a higher effect on indoor air quality.
Using image processing Housegreen makes the experience of taking care of house plants intuitive by using smartphone cameras to scan for plant diseases. It builds an emotional connection by identifying the existing plant and allowing the user to name their plant. It also provides consistent plant health reports of scanned plants so that users know what is happening with their house plants at all times which makes the relationship even stronger.
The informational design was at the forefront of all our design decisions since each screen consisted of numerical and graphical information that was essential to the overall experience. The design incorporates the explicitly supported values of health, control, and sustainability by providing intuitive UI controls to improve indoor air quality which can extend to the environment.
I learned that not all solutions require a new way of achieving a goal. Sometimes creating a solution on top of something that is already working is the most usable and efficient solution. This lesson will help strengthen design thinking and allows to diverge even more in the design process for future projects.