The 10 partners (ERDF, Alstom, EDF, Saft, RTE, Daikin, Socomec, NetSeenergy, Watteco and Armines) of the Nice Grid showroom can remotely change their content during the 4 year period of the experiment.

Projecting information around the Linky electricity meter

Compteur Linky

The wall of interactive objects in the showroom

Showroom Nice Grid

The Carros showroom

Nice Grid logo

Between communication issues
and pedagogical issues

Nice Grid, situated in the locality of Carros (Alpes-Maritimes), will deploy innovative technologies by building on the existing electrical infrastructure. The purpose: to test the whole concept of "Smart Grid" on the scale of an entire town. This system will incorporate a high proportion of local photovoltaic electricity, energy storage units (batteries) and communicating electrical objects in participating households.

In 2012, Intactile DESIGN and Ingenuity i/o were selected by ERDF to design the scenography and the contents of the Nice Grid showroom. The Marseille agency PAN designed the interior architecture.

This showroom has multiple objectives. It must be a technological showcase, but at the same time an information space for each exhibitor's objectives – at the same time targeting the general public, industry partners, and French and international institutions.

It should make the concept of "Smart Grids" understandable – implementation of high-tech equipment with difficult to interpret functions. And even more so when the equipment is installed at multiple points in an area as large as a ... city!

The problem to be solved is the design of a relevant and understandable showroom for all visitors, whether they are experienced engineers or just the general public!

How participatory design brings consistency
in interdisciplinary work

Intactile DESIGN carried out participatory design sessions that brought together the different actors in the project. These sessions helped define the main scenographic points as well as presentation scenarios which bring into play the different kind of equipment deployed on the network. This equipment is very varied by nature: communicating devices installed at home, batteries installed on the network
 - for individuals and businesses, software monitoring and flow analysis, etc. We have prioritized all these entities and all the relationships that link them. From the moment this complexity was smoothed out, it seemed obvious that all visitors to the showroom might be able to understand this complex system - as long as we managed to explain it step by step during the visit.

A choice was made not to provide a superficial explanation of the set up but an accurate and understandable one. Collaborative work between designers and industry professionals allowed us to develop this educational approach of employing different levels of information.

Mur d'objets sur le showroom à Carros

Participatory design meeting with project stakeholders

Two spaces are related to each other to better identify the technical issues of the exhibitor:

First, an interactive wall contains the exhibitor's physical hardware. Around this presentation material the viewer is invited to reveal information by touching the wall. This takes the shape of illuminated image… With the aim of contrasting the high-tech nature of the equipment the wall is discretely made ​​interactive through invisible sensors which trigger information display.

Details of the technological design

Three levels can be displayed for each device: a functional presentation, the basic technical data and the advanced technical data.

Mur d'objets sur le showroom à Carros

Interactive wall with "smart" objects

The digital nature of the installation can be used, without overloading the wall, to display information accessible to everybody.

Facing this wall of objects, a 4-meter screen wall plunges the viewer into every day scenes taken from this smart solar neighbourhood. These animated scenarios present the features of Nice Grid in detail according to day/night cycles, the seasons and the systems that are activated. The scenarios are not linear and once again describe the exhibit with a level of detail suitable for different audiences.

Les scénarios du mur écran

Presentation of usage scenarios

All technical data is freely ​​available to visitors, but the showroom reveals all its potential when a presenter takes over the demonstration: a touch pad enables him to link the whole system. For example, choosing an object exhibited on the wall, integrating it into the scenario where he can view its effect in a neighbourhood in 3D video - going from one showroom wall to another.

By designing scenarios with a clear pedagogical purpose and taking account of the technical innovations presented the showroom firmly asserts itself as both a tool for information and for raising public awareness.

Focus on certain qualitative design points

The design of the showroom Nice Grid brought together all aspects of the profession of interaction design – in terms of form, content and implementation - as shown in the following two examples.

Information design and level of detail

At Carros, the homes of the people participating will be equipped with technical equipment necessary for the production of photovoltaic energy, its storage or the control of its consumption. Concerning scenarios, we intend to start from an existing environment (e.g. a household) and add all the intelligent devices as the presentation evolves. Depending on the audience, the presenter will choose the appropriate scenario and display different levels of detail – from a simplified view to a real interactive diagram bringing up views of object datasheets one by one. Each view should remain homogeneous and expressive. Viewing angles and the representation of elements in a modular fashion had to be thought out.

A step of "consumer-actor" scenario - detail level 1

A step of "consumer-actor" scenario - detail level 2

A step of "consumer-actor" scenario - detail level 3

A step of "consumer-actor" scenario - detail level 4

Creating pictograms and artwork

Some entities of crucial importance in Nice Grid are not tangible objects, but services. The issue of how they would be displayed came up early and detailed work was carried out on the form to be given. We chose to display them as pictograms. Two major constraints were adopted as a starting point for their design: in terms of image, pictograms should refer to the existing Nice Grid artwork, but should also blend with all other equipment in the showroom. The hexagonal shape corresponds to the isometric viewing angle taken in 3D and colours are variations from the Nice Grid logo. From a technical point of view, the pictograms must be able to be exploited as pixels within the wall screen scenarios, be animated when necessary, and also have a tangible representation on the object wall. A version of the pictograms was produced from coloured Plexiglass, a technique which gave certain drawing constraints.

Conception et réalisation des pictos Nice Grid

Icon variations in different shapes and material.

Relevant technological choices

Together all the scenarios have more than 2,000 graphic objects spread over 150 stages and offer multilingual content that is distributed through several medium at the same time. The implementation issue was also complex. Not to mention that the content will be updated regularly for at least 4 years! Behind the scenes, the Ingenuity i/o engineers found solutions which are detailed on the blog "les coulisses de Nice Grid".

Vernissage du showroom Nice Grid

Inauguration on 30 August 2013

The scalability has proved its worth because, since the inauguration on 30 August 2013, almost 2,000 people - technical partners and the general public - have visited the showroom. The people of Carros have been able to better situate the environmental context of the project and understand the technical issues. The strengths of the installation, in terms of both content and form, have stood the test of the many visitors.

A concept to be developed

If the presentation of this concept of an innovative showroom - combining products on a touch wall and the projection of usage scenarios - has given you fresh ideas for your own professional domain, do not hesitate to talk to us about it! Contact us!

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