Usability testing by older and disabled people has highlighted that the majority of apps tested could do more to support customers with visual or cognitive impairments.
The research included usability testing by ten disabled and older members of the Research Institute for Disabled Consumers’ (RiDC) consumer panel who were already smart home central heating app users.
A concurrent online survey with 633 respondents, also showed that one in four disabled people have difficulties using apps in general, with almost half of these (44%) going on to uninstall or stop using the app because of this.
During the usability testing, each smart home heating control app was tested for accessibility characteristics such as ease of download, ability to customise and responsivity. The team also looked at the app’s ability to save the user energy and money, with features like open-window detection and program modes.
Gordon Mccullough, CEO at RiDC, said: “Smart home technology is often championed as a way for disabled and older people to have greater independence at home, which is particularly true for the control of heating and energy use. What’s interesting here is the variation in how much the apps can be customised, which unfortunately means that customers may miss out on being able to use some of the features, including those that have the potential to save energy and money.
“Inevitably, customers will choose the product which best meets their needs, so we’d love to see other apps exploring how they can make sure their design caters for the different ways that their customers need to use it. Especially this year, where disabled and older people in the UK have been staying at home out of necessity.”
There are 14 million disabled people in the UK, and an aging population means that an increased number of people are likely to become disabled in some way. Some physical conditions and old age make it harder for the body to control body temperature and stay warm when needed.”
The RiDC with funding from the Energy Industry Voluntary Redress Scheme has published a consumer guide into the ease-of-use and money-saving features of six popular heating control apps.