Getting back on track with Energy Dashboards for a Greener built Environment – after being consumed for a whole year

This past year I was consumed by setting up an operations team that could be sold. Of course I was part of the sale and now that the deed is done, I am back thinking about Energy Dashboards for a Greener built environment.

Energy Dashboards
Energy Dashboards

To recap my interest in Energy Dashboards: It is a multi-disciplinary approach to develop template(s) for Energy Dashboards. The approach does not develop dashboards, instead it provides a Open common framework to build interoperable and consistent Energy Dashboards in the future. The disciplines include but are not limited to: The built environment [Architecture/Urban planning], Standards [governance], Instrumentation [measurement of energy input/out by appliances or the environment, Electrical Engineering], Data Repositories [CS, Data minining, Numeric analysis] and Sensors and Transmission of Data [CS and Electrical engineering]

As a concrete example of a Dashboard: Consider a wireless sensor buried in each front yard in the community that transmits amount of water sprinkled and the amount of pesticide in the lawn. The sensor transmits this to the wireless mesh of routers, on its way to a data repository. The repository is transparent and can we viewed as part of a social network. Ultimately, the dashboard is the community view of the data repository.

A year later, I have initiated contact with Western Michigan University, to help me realize this idea that I blogged about back in November 2008, December 2009 and then continued to build upon through my software modelling paper at DePaul. This coming fall the focus will be on preping for Numeric Analysis and Data mining, which actually means I will sit in a couple of calculus classes at KVCC and then follow that up with in Spring at WMU as a Guest Student. Come fall of next year if all goes well, I will be part of a multi-disciplinary team driving the initiative to set templates and Standards for Energy Dashboards for a Greener built Environment.

Inter disciplinary approach:

There are 5 major domains that require to be loosely coupled to make the dream of pervasive “Dashboards for a Greener built environment” a reality. They are summed up in the illustration below. In the end we need standards that drive appliance manufactures to provide instrumentation data that is available to the consumers. We need standards that drive creating of Data repositories that store efficiency data that will be freely available to consumers. We need standards for our built environment that makes adoption of energy conservation a reality.

multi disciplinary approach for Energy Dasboards
multi disciplinary approach for Energy Dasboards

Going green

I am on this “less self centered kick” as mentioned in last weeks rant. This week I l am looking at this from a Going Green perspective. Imagine the impact we can make if we could combine three concepts “Less self centered” + “Green” + “Masses”. I am sure you want me to to elaborate, so take a seat, put on your listening ears, as I take you through this tour of my going green masses pyramid scheme.

Going Green:
If each household saved just a little bit in electrical energy consumed, the potential Energy savings for the country as a whole has be exponential. I set about trying to find out how to methodically go about saving energy at home, with this intent of publishing a template so others can benefit from my experience. As with any project I started with a baseline of energy consumption in the house. I got that from taking a reading from the Power meter outside. I also walked around the house and documented the devices that was hooked into the electrical circuits int he house. This is a room by room list that includes lights, appliances, and anything can be plugged in to the sockets, even if it currently is not.

Benchmark: Benchmarking power consumption should not last more than a week. A seven day cycle of consumption documented daily should be our goal.

Documentation: Room by Room documentation of light fixtures, appliances, gadgets, computers, monitors, and any device that has the potential to draw current, will be used to tweak our benchmark, and set goals. If our goal translates of 1KWHour per day, it is reasonable to assume that we as a nation have the potential to save 1 Million KWHours per day, by engaging 1 million households in this effort.

Template approach: Any project that involves massive numbers should use templates for consistency, with that in mind, the idea behind this evaluation is to generate those templates and distribute them for others to use.

The Business Model for profiting from this scheme: How does one motivate a million households to save just a fraction of what they use on a daily basis?. How does this project then turn that savings generated by the million households for a larger purpose?.

Answer: Dashboards.
Dashboards provide us view into that what we take for granted. They can help by reminding us that you can tweak this and gain that. The more interactive the Dashboard becomes, the more involved the user becomes. If my dashboard says by turning these 5 lights for 3 hours in a day, I will gain my great grand children a forest, that could be significant motivation?


Calculating costs: Here is a great site on everything Electricity, from average cost of kWh by state to how much does a 100 watt light bulb burn if kept on for a month. Ideally what we need is a gadget that can map our electricity usage, so we can see “real time” how electricity is being used. The idea: if we can see where it is going, we can put in controls needed. I went looking for such a device and found this product by TED that actually has some pretty cool features. The only problem with this solution is that it will cost you around $200 for the gadget + footprint software, then you will have to get an electrician to install it. So lets say around $300 investment. Not many people will go for that is my guess. So what we need is a solution that every household should have, if we we are going to control our spending and making inroads in this area. In fact, I think this should be subsidized so its use becomes ubiquitous.

Collaborative savings
: are nothing new, many business models are built requires a community based business model that can leverage the strength in numbers to advantage. The idea is if a million households saved a million Kilowatt hours, what can they collectively gain from that?

That’s my Saturday morning Rant, Next week I might be spewing Usability sensibilities as I will be studying all week for the HCI 440 exam. Wish me luck.