CMU Research Team Aims to Help Renters With Utility Bills


Carnegie Mellon University researchers from the School of Design and the Human Computer Interaction Institute, have developed an online resource to help people find the perfect rental property by estimating utility costs based not only on the housing unit itself but on the renter’s lifestyle. The service, EDigs, is available for free online or via an Android app, and is part of a research project on livability and sustainability directed by HCII Associate Professor Jennifer Mankoff and Associate Professor of Design Cameron Tonkinwise.

“It’s great because it will incentivize landlords to do better and to provide better options for tenants,” said Dimeji Onafuwa, a PhD student at the School of Design. 

Onafuwa’s PHD research topic is Design-Enabled Communities and his intent with Edigs is to design an online community platform that finds a pre-existing community in renters that share quality of life and utility cost information about rental properties without a promise of direct individual benefit.

“One of the current challenges with this model is designing incentives that will build a critical mass of subscribers to the community through social affordances,” added Onafuwa. “I also intend to research how we can measure social exchange mechanisms for online participation, and highlight the differences between a crowdsourcing model and a commons-based peer-to-peer network model.”

Onafuwa hopes to accomplish this by designing options like icons for pinning favorite apartments and finding out more information about the respective units, opportunities for participants to highlight code and noise ordinance violations, feedback mechanisms, opportunities for neighbors to verify apartments listings as well as incentives for rating apartments and measuring how these impact the Edigs community.

Edigs featured on Pittsburgh’s KDKA News:

Edigs Website >>

More on the School of Design's PhD Program >>

Date Published: 
Tuesday, May 19, 2015