People living on and around Alabama's hydropower lakes plan their lives around information like water levels, sub-surface temperatures and turbine schedules. Alabama Power took an initiative to increase how much useful data they can collect from their lakes, and wanted to learn how they can start taking advantage of their data to craft experiences for their customes. So they engaged an agency that asked me to lead a project to teach them UX fundamentals and innovation methods while guiding them through creating an app. But how do you make a lake smart?
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A map experience made sense here as most of the data is location specific. This opened the door to creating an experience that isn't just helpful to people living around the lake, but also weekend visitors. Incorporating weather data, dock-to-dock directions on the water, and even detecting where the fish are with underwater sensors all work out well in this strategy.
Familiar models of other map and destination apps make this easy to quickly learn and use. As a result, we've helped a number of small businesses that depend on boat traffic to get noticed.
Vital information on water level, schedules and water current flow from power generation are displayed in a fun and pleasant manner. Smart home (i.e., Nest) device integration was added to support the subsequent Smart Neighborhoods project.
Regulatory assistance and public services offered by the utility organization is also within reach. Here, requesting a permit application or reporting invasive species found around the lake is simplified by taking advantage of the phone's GPS and camera utilities.
Following a map while in a boat can be challenging if you're not familiar with the area. So I challenged the development team to figure out a way to use AR in the app to provide a visual wayfinder to know where to go.
The app launch received local TV news attention, and a number of new app installs. Ratings are all over the place, but seem to be dependent up technological issues. People who can install and use the app love it, but a number of people are unable to get it to work. I don't know who developed the app, but based on responses - seems like the AP team is actively working on resolving those bugs. The executive sponsor, Anthony Oni was promoted to a VP at the parent company, Southern Company, and the 'Smart Neighborhood' program began deploying their own mobile apps. I'm proud of this team.
“Absolutely fantastic job!”
Headline story in local TV news. =)
I left the Alabama Power team with a few resources to help them progress forward, including concepts for how they might apply machine learning or artificial intelligence with their data in meaningful ways, and a context map for how I structure and plan out a product. Hopefully these tools are helping them plan out what's next.