Technical set-up

Technical set-up is about the technical planning and implementation of the service.

Build implementation team / identify champions

This step involves set-up of a team of qualified personnel to initiate and lead the implementation process. A team of qualified and experienced personnel from across stakeholder organisations to initiate and lead the project helps to ensure that the implementation plan is carefully crafted, with special emphasis to be placed on realistic work plan and adequate risk mitigation strategies. Bringing together a team of interested individuals with diverse backgrounds also serves to ensure that the implementation programme receives broad support from local stakeholders.

Assessment of incentives and motivations from the viewpoint of all main stakeholders will enable you to identify an implementation champion who can support the project by promoting it among her or his sphere of influence.

In this context it is worth pointing out that end users who can act as multipliers should be involved as active participants of the implementation team as well, if feasible.

Defining Scope and Focus

The leading actor should lay out the limits of the service to be deployed to make sure that the following steps such as requirement collection and use case development do not loose focus.

Selection of utilities to be covered by the service

Based on your project’s overarching goals, you will need to decide which resources and devices should be covered by the service.

If the objective is to achieve the highest possible energy savings with the smart services to be introduced, it needs to be kept in mind that three quarters of the energy used in the European residential buildings sector is for heating and cooling. Given these patterns of energy consumption, it strikes as unfortunate that the discussion about potential uses of smart meter technologies tends to revolve around electricity.

It is true, however, that energy use for electrical appliances has been increasing in the last decades, partly due to the larger number of ICT appliances being used. Moreover, the share of electricity in average utility bills in the residential sector is much higher than its share of total energy consumption. Hence, in monetary terms it might be easier to incentivise stakeholders.

Including Renewables

If renewables are produced locally, a mutual benefit can result for the operator of the units and the consumer. Depending on national law, local consumption which does not enter the grid is freed from tax etc. Hence, getting the user involved to consume energy at peak production times is

Moreover, the ICT monitoring can help to identify whether the unit is running on optimal capacity. Sometimes, even newly installed solar devices are not perfectly adjusted or water pressures for water thermals not optimally set by the contractor. The data monitored can be matched against the output promised and then adjustments can be made to increase the output.

Considering peak demand local storage

Existing buildings are storing energy. The materials used have a so called ‘latent storage’ capacity. Depending on the material used it can store large amount of heat (or cold) realising it faster or slower. Since heat (cold) energy can be converted into electricity (and vice versa), storage capacities of buildings can be used to store-up production capacities (e.g. CHCP) and supply of renewables (photovoltaic) for a given amount of time.

ICT can intelligently balance local systems helping to mitigate similar problems and to ensure that local network connections are optimally loaded and transitory (stochastic) renewable output fully used. It is now recognised that local balancing by matching local supply and demand can not only reduce the number of hours of criticality locally, but as well help to balance load at a wider scale . The future smart grid will rely on Virtual Power Plants (VPP) and Demand Response within and from buildings.

Selection of channel for representation of feedback

There has been a lot of debate in the field of smart meter enabled energy efficiency and demand response about which forms of feedback work best. Research conducted by the Empower Demand 1+2 projects , as well as experience from piloting, has shown that multiple feedback channels tend to work best. It is certainly true that different consumers will prefer different channels and that no one-size-fits-all approach is likely to meet all needs and preferences.

The basic options, and their main advantages and limitations, for presentation channels are:

  • In home displays were used in most early pilots, and can be an effective form of feedback if combined with appropriate activities for education and awareness raising. They tend to be more expensive and much less flexible compared to use of existing communication devices such as mobile phones and computers.
  • Applications for mobile devices such as texting/SMS (for traditional mobile phones) or more advanced presentation in html (for Smartphones or tablets), are usually less expensive as users use their own end devices for reception. They can also be integrated more seamlessly with users’ established behaviours.
  • Web portals to be accessed through computers or smart mobile devices connected to the Internet offer the widest range of possibilities, e.g. in terms of personalisation of the presentation type and style, but need to be very well designed to avoid putting off users. Drawbacks include the need not only for Internet access but also for the skills and motivation required to use the Internet effortlessly and frequently.
  • Since not all residents of social housing buildings will have Internet access, the television can be a suitable alternative for data presentation.
  • In times when people easily feel that they are being bombarded with information online, paper-based letters can still be a very useful alternative, especially if not (only) data but practical recommendations are to be communicated.
  • Other paper-based communication, including leaflets with practical hints and recommendations, can also still play an important role – if done well and well aligned with other presentation channels.
  • Communication in-person can be applied, of course, only in combination with some of the channels above. Use of energy coaches can be a highly effective means of providing information with the objective of changing tenants’ energy consumption behaviour. Deployment of energy coaches is also recommended as a complement to feedback content which is complex and therefore not easy to understand and to translate into suitable behaviour. The more comprehensive and ambitious your project is, the more emphasis you should place on in-person communication.

Any feedback given to tenants needs to be consistent with the bills they later receive from the utilities, as the Empower Demand 2 report points out based on its comprehensive research into best practice:

*“Ultimately, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Regardless of all the feedback that a customer receives, if the bill that comes to them at the end of a billing period is higher than previously or higher than they expected, or even not noticeably lower than previously, then a customer will be discouraged or in the worst cases [...] even highly critical of the feedback programme.

A way to overcome this is to make billing as clear and informative as possible, […] which ultimately allows the customer to differentiate between increases in bills that are attributable to price increases as opposed to increases in consumption.”*

Requirement Capture

A requirement is any technical, organisational or user specific request. Requirements are collected using workshops and questionnaires and should be collected from all user groups as they might have different needs. Requirements are prioritised to identify critical and to organise work. Later in the process, the system can be compared against the list of highly prioritised requirements and if all are covered the tester can be confident that (at least from this view point) the system is fully functional.

The Guide offers a comprehensive list of almost 500 requirements collected from 28 pilot sites traceable by an ID. The necessary set is listed with each Use Case and Process Model so replicating stakeholders know what to look out for.


This section covers some generic insights and domains to look out for. The entire portfolio of requirements is listed in section Requirements and later referenced by individual Use Cases.

Methods for requirements capture

User requirements can be assessed in various ways:

  • Workshops among professional staff – The first step should be a workshop between members of the implementation team plus professional staff who are responsible for day-to-day energy management in the building stock. The workshop should be used for preparation of subsequent involvement of members from the end-user target group (tenants/staff in case of edss).
  • Focus group meetings: If you do not have much knowledge yet about users’ perceptions and opinions about energy consumption and saving, a series of focus groups is recommended as the next step for requirements capture. In smaller building units, it might be possible to include all tenants in a series of focus groups. More likely, however, you will need to make a selection.
  • Questionnaire surveys: If the target group is big or there is strong diversity between individuals, focus groups should be complemented by a questionnaire survey targeted at the entire tenant base, possibly in combination with an open discussion at a general tenants assembly. The survey instrument should be used carefully, however, since there are risks: In particular, surveys can raise expectations about upcoming improvements and activities, resulting in frustration if the organisation issuing the research (e.g. housing company) is not prepared to or not able to meet expectations later. Questionnaire surveys can also raise fears and doubts as to what the real intention behind the interviews could be. With no representative of the housing company around to answer questions and provide context, such uncertainty can quickly turn into scepticism and opposition to innovations.

How to conduct a focus group meeting [1]

What are focus groups?

Focus groups are most often used as an input to design. A focus group involves encouraging an invited group of participants to share their thoughts, feelings, attitudes and ideas on certain subject, such as how to best save energy and cut utility bills. Organising focus groups within a social housing unit can also be very useful in getting buy-in to a project such as implementation of smart meter enabled energy efficiency and demand response services.

Advantages of focus groups

  • Quick, cheap and relatively easy to assemble
  • Good for getting rich data in participants’ own words and developing deeper insights
  • Participants are able to build on one another’s responses, and they can act as checks and balances on one another
  • Good for obtaining data from older people and people with low levels of literacy
  • Provides an opportunity to involve people in the design process

Limitations of focus groups

  • The responses of each participant are not independent
  • A few dominant focus group members can skew the session
  • A skilled and experienced moderator is required
  • The data produced via a focus group needs to be carefully analysed

How to plan and prepare for focus groups

Invite around 5 to 10 people to participate for a session to last for about an hour. Then, prepare an agenda including a list of the top-level issues to be tackled (if appropriate). Prepare an introduction script explaining the purpose of the day and how the day will be run. This can include issues of consent. Be sure to always use a quiet room with few distractions and arrange people in a circle (possibly around a table).

Running focus groups

If appropriate, ask the participants to introduce themselves and/or wear name tags. Most importantly, all questions you ask should be open and neutral. It’s also important for the moderator to be aware of participants’ energy and concentration levels and provide short breaks if necessary. The moderator should encourage free-flowing discussion around the relevant issue(s). The moderator should also:

  • Start on an issue people have strong feelings about and are familiar with
  • Phrase issues in terms people will be familiar with
  • Let participants know their contributions are valuable (both through what you say and also your body language)
  • Step in and keep the session on-track if necessary
  • Allow disagreements when they lead to new and interesting ideas, but manage them carefully
  • Manage issues of power and privacy sensitively
  • Focus groups should end with the moderator winding-up the session by stressing all that has achieved and casting it in a positive light.

Managing risks

A number of potential problems could arise during focus groups, which will all need addressing: * If one participant tries to dominate the session, the moderator should invite each person to speak in turn * Avoid interviewing friends in the same group as they can form cliques * Avoid personal confrontation – allow the group to police itself (e.g. “do others in the group agree?”) * Respect someone’s right to be quiet, but do give them a chance to share their ideas 1-to-1 (e.g. during a break) * Use differences of opinion as a topic of discussion – the moderator should avoid taking sides

How to encourage discussion

To facilitate useful, free-flowing discussion during the focus group, follow some of these tips:

  • Ask participants to think about an issue for a few minutes and write down their responses
  • Ask each participant to read, and elaborate on, one of their responses
  • Note the responses on a flipchart/whiteboard
  • Once everyone has given a response, participants will be asked for a second or third response, until all of their answers have been noted
  • These responses can then be discussed

How to report The minutes, or a summary document, should be produced for each session. A report should be written up, containing relevant profile information about the people who attended the session.

—— Footnotes

[1]Adapted from: WebCredible (2013) ‘Focus groups - how to run them’, URL: and Work Group for Community Health and Development (2013) ‘Community Tool Box’, URL:

Generic User Characteristics

Residential Buildings

A key determinant of user requirements are the main characteristics of social housing tenants. Research using large-scale surveys of social housing tenants across Europe established evidence for these features:

  • A large share of social housing tenants are above 60 years of age – typically around 40%;
  • By definition, social housing tenants have levels of income that are significantly below the national average, and many live on social security benefits;
  • Available data suggest that even today, more than one in two social housing tenants in the EU has no home access to a computer and the Internet. Those who have access tend to have low levels of digital literacy;
  • A significant share of social housing tenants are from ethnic minorities and has limited capability to use the national language of their resident country;
  • Directly associated with the four factors above, educational attainment levels are below national average.

Currently, smart gadgets are an up-market development performed with modernisations or with expensive add-on devices (e.g. NEST). It is therefore important to keep all groups in mind. The following non-functional requirements are typically relevant for the following groups:

Large group of older people

  • System/service design and dialogues should be compatible with user expectations (e.g. consistent dialogues)
  • Users should be able to determine pace and sequence of the interaction with the system/service
  • Similar functions should act the same throughout the system/service
  • Avoid memory overload through avoiding multiple steps to perform an action
  • Minimise workload through well organised desktop / displays
  • High contrast between characters and background
  • Alerts and warning messages: flash rather than have it come on and stay on
  • Avoid extraneous design: display only relevant graphics
  • Use familiar icons and symbols, e.g. traffic lights; avoid long text messages
  • Positioning of labels, icons, text messages should be consistent
  • Avoid jargon or unfamiliar terms; use non-technical language
  • Text on buttons should be descriptive (“send message” instead of “send”)
  • Use colours thoroughly and bear in mind colour blind people. A status should (hot = red, cold = blue) but also with associated text.

Large group of low income earners

  • Need for directing motivational measures towards increasing service usage (e.g. monetary presentation of consumption in € to show saving potential at user level)
  • Need for awareness raising about wider benefits of energy saving

Low home-based internet access rate

  • Alternative service access channels enabling to cater for given local peculiarities/circumstances
  • Options include set-up of public terminals for Internet access at entrance of buildings, access via TV, mobile phone applications, paper based information together with housing company brochure/newsletter
  • Capacity building specifically tailored towards novice users (e.g. low-threshold training measures where subsidised/donated access channels are provided)

Migrants highly represented

  • Provide clearly visible language button (country flag) at the start of the service use
  • Need for service/interface design that allows to cater for language/cultural diversity
  • Need for capacity building specifically tailored towards users with restricted language capacities
  • Use of Plain Language (see below)

Low education levels over represented

  • Use of Plain Language, i.e. language that emphasises clarity, brevity, and avoidance of technical terms.
  • All use of language should be in a way that is easily understood by the target audience: clear and straightforward, appropriate to their reading skills and knowledge, free of wordiness, cliché and needless jargon.

Functional Requirements

The entire portfolio of functional and other requirements is listed in section Requirements and later referenced by individual Use Cases.

An interactive Excel tool to collect, prioritise and trace requirements (by Use Case) is available at empirica. Among others, it can also be used for surveys among staff and to calculate the result.

Any use of the list below must reference empirica GmbH.

Data Requirements

Protection of data security and privacy in projects for implementation of smart meter enabled services should not be added on as afterthoughts, but they need to be an integral part of the project design phase, as BEUC, the European Association for the Co-ordination of Consumer Representation in Standardisation (ANEC) has stressed: “Privacy should be designed into smart meter systems right from the start as part of the compliance life-cycle and include easy to use privacy-enhancing technologies. We urge to make the principle of privacy by design mandatory, including principles of data minimization and data deleting”.


The topic is covered in Phase phase2`and the :ref:`710-content section full detail. The requirements tool by empirica GmbH also includes a sheet on data requirements alone ensuring consistency across your organisation.

In practice, meeting all data protection regulations can raise challenges because regulation in the area is undergoing continuous change, partly in response to newly emerging risks introduced by new applications of ICT using personal data.

Projects expecting opposition to smart meter implementation because of data protection related reasons should consider engaging an independent data privacy officer who advises the implementation team and responds to questions raised by users in all issues relating to the topic, and across all stages of the project.

Preparatory measures should include additional training of the professional staff in data protection. If not in place so far, all actors with theoretical access to data needs to develop sufficient sensitivity to the privacy topic in order to prevent individual employees from misconduct, which can quickly lead to a major backlash against smart meter implementation.

Data security and privacy

Check the following to-do list on hte matters of data privacy of future users.

  • Check national legislation and industry self-regulation concerning data protection in smart meter based service provision
  • Seek advice from independent data protection experts
  • Draft data protection policy make sure the data protection policy covers all elements and steps of the implementation process
  • Assign independent data privacy officer
  • Inform tenants pro-actively about the main data protection issues and how these are addressed by the project
  • Train own professional staff in data security and privacy
  • Check whether third parties must be given access to tenant personal data as well
  • Obtain data subject’s consent (letter of consent from all tenants)

Source: Partly based on: Cavoukian, A. (2012) ‘Smart Meters in Europe: Privacy by Design at its Best’, URL:

Selecting Use Cases

Each use case describes one particular scenario in which the user interacts with the system. A use case is described with a summary and the flow of events. Any precautions taken to respond to mistakes by either the system or the user which do not resemble the base flow of events will be described as well. Each use case has a unique ID and name. Each use case matches exactly one process model.

Use cases and process models were developed in parallel: Input gathered from process models was implemented in the use cases and vice versa. Either presents the full complexity of the scenario across all pilot sites implementing this particular scenario. Hence, certain sites might not cover all steps or implement the flow slightly differently.


Your system does not have to implement the entire complexity to deploy a certain feature. Some steps cover specialised elements and can be “cut out” or come with an “upgrade” later.

The Guide offers a comprehensive list of 49 Use Cases (with Process Models and Requirements) collected from 28 pilot sites traceable by an ID.


Over the years, empirica has managed 28 pilot sites. We have summarises all typical scenarios in one common format which can be adopted and adjusted. The full detail of UML and BPMN documentation and typically necessary requirements ca be found in section Use Cases.

Risk Management Plan

In the implementation schedule to be included in the work plan, you should prepare for sufficient time for each of the five implementation steps, and also take account of the possibility of technical and organisational problems. Even housing companies and utilities that have extensive experience in large-scale pilots experience technical issues when implementing an innovation , and therefore it is better to plan for these to take place.

In general, the rule is that technical Issues should be kept as invisible to consumers as possible. Successful projects keep these issues from causing consumer’s inconvenience (for instance through inaccurate bills) and keep them from endangering the whole roll-out plan, for which reason careful planning and pro-active risk management plans are required.

A detailed plan should be produced for dealing with any major challenges the project can face. It is recommended to apply the classic 4T model: Tolerate, Treat, Terminate, Transfer. The risk management process should consist of a full set of steps to identify risks, analyze and prioritize these, plan mitigation actions, track progress and control outcomes, as illustrated below.


Lessons learnt

Define roles & responsibilities of (sub)contractor / provider to avoid conflict and cost

  • Impact
    • Hierarchies established avoid additional / unstructured communication
    • Not allocated tasks induce costs, create conflicts between contractors and can bring work to an halt (potentially with knock-on effects)
    • The effect is stronger where language barriers exist.
  • Recommendation
    • Outline responsibilities of key stakeholders and their exact roles in the project early on.
    • Definitions should follow the role/function of the actor within the project, not the structure of the consortium.
    • Each partner can play several roles, but potential role conflicts need to be identified and subsequently addressed at planning stage.

Initial site visits should be the most accurate possible

  • Impact
    • Conditionas in historical buildings and those with exhibitions can changewhich is not desirable, e.g. in museums
    • Placing sensors gets tricky because changing appearance might change measuring conditions (e.g. air flows for temperature)
    • Existing plans might not be accurate and local staff is aware while you are not > potential source for tension / conflict
  • Recommendation
    • Validate your understanding of plans with local building staff to avoid misunderstandings
    • Building staff are dealing with the building on day-to-day basis, so they know in many cases what is best because they have operational experienc

Survey infrastructure and contracts in place

  • Impact
    • Existing communication channel might be used to transfer metering data to central server
    • If improvements benefit others, support for project increases and reduces cost
  • Recommendation
    • Do not only survey metering devices
    • Survey communication contracts and needs in building

Fully label meters, sensors etc

  • Impact
    • Whilst billing meters have imprinted numbers additional metering for zones might not
    • If confusion arises between device and data, it endangers the service
    • If user notices data must be wrong, trust is loss
  • Recommendation
    • Clearly label each device and record number and location along in database
    • Testing procedure should include test validating hardware recording and data stored in database

Develop one simple visualisation which works everywhere

  • Impact
    • People feel immediately confident that they understand the output of the service: motivation
    • Changes to the graphic are immediately recognised which creates a feedback loop
    • Users immediately understand information in new context (e.g. different building, resource)
  • Recommendation
    • Create one graphic which reduces the number of variables needed to understand
    • Make this visualisation the default view at start page
    • In back-end and residential context consider bar-chart in monetary terms
    • Same graph and default time period should be used for varying resources

Visualise high consumers

  • Impact
    • If alarms are too frequent, Professional might set threshold higher - quick view sometimes easier and a backup
    • Awareness of normal users can focused by showing the impact of one single consumer
  • Recommendation
    • Provide small graphic of high consumers on one dashboard for Professional in backend
    • Push-alarms might be possible based on such graphics
    • Consider adding a meter for large consumers

Do not rely on availibilty of modern software

  • Impact
    • Institutions do not necessarily allow, for instance, modern browsers
    • Same applies for protocols supported by servers, backbones, routers etc.
  • Recommendation
    • Reduce dependency and try to use standard technology
    • Clearly define the requirements so ICT can check

Take user testing seriously

  • Impact
    • Testers are new users and they show you where they fail
    • Recording their requirements makes sure feateres which are wanted are to be developed
  • Recommendation
    • During different stages of the project find test users that have not seen the displays before and ask them to do a sense check
    • Keep in touch with old testers for them to check your new version
    • Review their feedback and consider changes
    • Use standardised routines including referencing requiremetns

Documentation of the technical equipment and machines is important

  • Impact
    • ICT in mechanical part is often new
    • Responsible do not know where to add or check information
    • Retracing will be more expensive
  • Recommendation
    • Integrate new hardware into existing documentation routines
    • Inform professionals on where to find documentation, gives control / increases motivation

Some managers prefer to control the access to energy information

  • Impact
    • Information about energy consumption remains limited to a few staff
    • This hinders other staff / recipients of this information to look at the raw data to come to their own conclusions
  • Recommendation
    • Communicate that control remains in the hands of managers
    • Openly negotiate and agree on what access is permitted for all users
    • Ask what the worries are and if there is reason compromise
    • Present other benefits such as empowering staff, getting people interested, etc.