Visualising Energy Patterns

Recently I’ve been helping a friend with a couple of his projects. One of these projects, the Polargraph Energy Monitor visualises energy used in a household and draws patterns corresponding to the usage. This allows us to understand where and when most energy is used, encouraging us to make simple changes to live more energy efficient lives.

Of course the prospect of pattern creation is very exciting to me (and Matt’s looking for ideas to expand his pattern library!). To see what a Polargraph can draw and to get an idea of the very distinct style is a great starting point – Sandy creates all sorts of vector based images on the polargraph. For patterns that are influences and correspond to music Tristan Perich’s machine drawings are amazing to see the depth and the almost texture like artistic style that can be created using the same technology.

As we are talking behavioural change here, there are two core aspects to be considered when creating new pattern ideas which shall encourage progression:

1. Visualising energy in meaningful ways 

  • Intuitive representations: the more energy is used the darker, bigger, more curvy the pattern is etc.
  • Level of detail: what’s the time granulation (every 10 sec, 10 mins) of the pattern and sizes to be able to identify individual actions?
  • Comparability: pattern should allow for several day tracing for easy comparison to be able to identify differences.
  • Elements assisting readability: an algorithm which draws a pattern in itself may not be enough when a Newbee, instructions or elements which the plotted energy is interacting with might support readability.

2. Encouraging less energy usage

  • Gamification:  the less energy is used the quicker a goal is reached, or the longer a pattern is drawn for.
  • Competition: encouraging sharing of patterns, times and successes.
  • Levels: the less energy is used progressively – a next level of pattern visualisation is reached and it automatically changes.

Anyway, here are five of my ideas. Not brilliantly refined but a starting point for discussion and further thought.

The plan is also to make the Polargraph into a sellable kit. So for that, to also make it appealing to a wider market, a pre-printed sheet which also supports its first time readability would be of value.

… and some more game like ideas:

Let’s plot data coming from the internet next…

Update: A good point of critique raised by Andy is that, if the bee gets quicker to the flower, the quicker the sheet needs to be changed. So let’s reverse it: the less energy is used the longer one game sheet can be used.



  1. Interesting project Fee. You are good at this abstract visualisation. Keep this as your forte. Best wishes. Manoj Kothari

  2. Pingback: Polargraph Energy Monitor product development « Crafty things made

  3. Pingback: Building a Nanode Classic « Crafty things made

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