Push-pull economies

Could your kettle do more than just boil water?


The Karma kettles are part of an effort to explore the social impacts of algorithmic transactions within decentralised systems of energy generation and consumption. In contrast to traditional centralised national grids, distributed systems allow for smaller enterprises and households to produce and sell energy in a free market economy. They are supported by technologies such as blockchains, smart contracts and programmable batteries, and enable more flexible energy production, distribution and trade, which are key to wide adoption of renewable energy sources.

The Karma kettles were designed to elicit reactions towards potential outcomes of distributed energy systems and support discussion on expectations of control over automated system more broadly. The connected kettles mimic a scenario of domestic energy storage and local distribution, allowing people to track how much energy is currently stored in regional batteries (e.g. their neighbourhood) and how much energy is currently available in the overall grid (peak or shortage of supply). Users can then choose to boil, pull (store) or push (give) energy into the grid, receiving “karma” points according to how much their actions benefit the state of the grid.

The kettles have been used in public engagement workshops, exhibitions and with groups of residents in a large block of flats in Edinburgh. Interviews with participant groups reveal the potential for IoT devices to support end-consumer energy trade and bottom-up energy generation which could help support a transition to more sustainable sources of energy. Insights will help inform best practices for future applications and governance of the algorithmically mediated energy transactions.

Karma Kettles setup at the TATE Modern event: Living with the Internet of Things

The project was part of the IoT in the Home PETRAS demonstrator, led by Larissa Pschetz, with contribution of researchers Luis Soares (studies), Billy Dixon (design), Esteban Serrano (programming) and Ella Tallyn (ideation).

Living with the Internet of Things

When: 8-9 February 12:00-18:00 drop in free event

Location: Tate Exchange at the Tate Modern, Blavatnik Building, Level 5, Bankside, London, SE1 9TG


PETRAS Internet of Things Research Hub, is holding an event to showcase a number of its research projects in the Tate Exchange. This will be a drop-in event over 2 days which is free and open to the public. Throughout the 2 days will be 10-minute talks from researchers across the projects including one by our own Professor Chris Speed who will talk about “The Art of Things” at 13:00 on Saturday the 9th of February (no booking required).

Design Informatics will be showing two pieces as part of the event- GeoPact and Karma Kettles.



GeoPact has been developed to explore new urban transport and delivery solutions. The system collects and verifies location data from smart objects with certainty and security, unlocking its potential for everyday use. Smart contracts help us harness this data, linking it to real-life transactions, with a variety of possible applications. It could help governments measure and prove carbon reduction targets, enable drivers to prove a record of safe driving for insurance purposes or even let you know for sure when an important package has been left on your doorstep.

GeoPact presents a vision of the future that explores a fusion of location-based IoT and ledger technology. Focusing specifically on verifying the location of smart objects and vehicles, we consider futuristic new models of consumption and essential low carbon transport solutions. Demos of the system will be shown at the Tate and a follow up workshop involving electric scooters will take place in Edinburgh on the 12thand 13thof March, more information on that event here- https://www.designinformatics.org/event/geopact-demonstration/


Karma Kettles

The Karma Kettle considers the expansion of distributed systems as a way to support more flexible energy infrastructures. In contrast to centralised national grids, distributed systems require lower initial investment, which allows for smaller enterprises to produce and sell energy in a free market economy.

The Karma Kettle simulates a context of distributed energy generation where domestic batteries contribute to store part of the energy available in the grid, ultimately helping to balance on and off-peak times and prices. The kettle displays states of scarcity and abundance of energy in the grid and in the storage grid and rewards users for pulling or pushing energy into the grid according to the state of the grid contributing to their energy “karma”. For example, if energy is highly available in the grid and in storage, users are encouraged to use it, this way, using energy would contribute to a positive karma. If energy is scarce in the grid and in storage, users are encouraged to push stored energy into the network. In this case, using would contribute to a negative karma. The project attempts to investigate the potential for IoT devices to support end consumer energy trade and bottom-up energy generation.

At TATE the Karma Kettles will be presented as a game where two participants compete or collaborate with each other in order to balance the grid according to (or despite of) challenges encountered in the period of 24-hours.



More Information on the other projects and talks at Tate Exchange here- https://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/tate-exchange/workshop/living-internet-things

PETRAS is funded by the EPSRC and DCMS and comprises of researchers from 11 UK universities: UCL, Imperial College London, Lancaster University, University of Oxford, University of Warwick, Cardiff University, University of Edinburgh, University of Southampton, University of Surrey, University of Bristol and Newcastle University. https://www.petrashub.org


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Smart Energy Wales: Consumer of the Future

Smart Energy GB is hosting an event at the Senedd on Wednesday 12 of June at 12 – 1:30pm with a lunchtime reception sponsored by Llyr Gruffydd AM.

Join Lesley Griffiths, Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs and leading organisations within the sector to discuss the current market innovations and opportunities for the smart energy consumer of the future.

A buffet lunch will be served alongside an opportunity to view information stands showcasing leading technology within the energy sector.

Luis Soares from Design Informatics at The University of Edinburgh will be showcasing one of their current projects, Karma Kettles. The Karma Kettles study is a pilot project in the contexts of distributed energy systems, which rely on technologies such as blockchains, smart contracts and new batteries that can connect directly to the electricity grid. The Karma Kettle can carry out transactions, such as pulling and pushing data and buying and selling energy.  Most importantly, the Karma Kettle gives users some level of control over energy transactions. The project attempts to investigate the potential for IoT devices to support end consumer energy trade and bottom-up energy generation. Users operate the Karma Kettle through a rotary switch that allows them to use (boil), pull (store) or push (give) energy. The kettles then reward users for pulling or pushing energy into the grid according to the state of the grid contributing to their energy “karma”. Please chat with Luis to learn more and use the kettle.

This event is free but tickets are limited, please reserve your ticket now by clicking here.

Location and logistics

Arriving by car

From the West, leave the M4 at junction 33, follow the A4232 to Cardiff Bay and follow signposts to National Assembly for Wales, CF99 1NA.

From the East, leave the M4 at Junction 29, follow the A48 and then A4232 to Cardiff Bay and follow sign posts to National Assembly for Wales, CF99 1NA

The nearest car park is the Q-Park multi-storey on Pierhead Street, a short walk from the Senedd.

Arriving by train

Services run every 12 minutes from Cardiff Queen Street Station to Cardiff Bay Station. The station is a few minutes walk from the Senedd, Tŷ Hywel and the Pierhead building.

Arriving by bus

The No. 6 Baycar leaves from Cardiff Queen Street Station, Dumfries Place, Greyfriars Road, St. Mary Street or Cardiff Central Railway Station every 10 minutes and stops at both Pierhead Street and outside the Wales Millennium Centre adjacent to the Senedd.

*Please note there will be photography at this event

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IoT in the Home Demonstrator

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BRE Group

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