Smart system offers energy-saving recommendations

UK researchers are planning an energy-saving computer system that learns how people use buildings and makes personalised recommendations on cutting energy usage.

Bath University has secured a £1.5m grant to further its research on understanding and influencing people’s energy use, which will enable it to develop an intelligent system that encourages long-term behavioural changes.

‘The smart system we aim to develop is unique in that it automatically learns about the building it is monitoring,’ said principal investigator Prof David Coley in a statement.

‘By using complex mathematical systems, it will allow for what the building is made for and how insulated it is and will make suggestions with these limitations in mind.

‘The system will also partition physical items in the building, so suggestions might link directly to the use of a kettle or television.

‘Suggestions will be given in non-technical human language, and we’re working with psychologists to establish the best way of achieving this.’

As part of the cross-disciplinary ‘Enliten’ project, 20 test households will each be given an iPad that constantly informs them of how they might save energy in their home and how much any particular action will cost or save them.

However, the researchers said that previous studies focusing on providing building occupants with information about their energy use had had minimal impact and that longer-lasting strategies were also needed.

‘In order to achieve these goals, this project will specifically target long-term sustained effects by focusing on changes to the habitual behaviours of building occupants, and not just short-term responses to interventions,’ said Coley.

The smart system will be based on a model that integrates a thermal picture of the building, data on the occupant’s habits and requirements, and a map of energy use in the building.

The project commences in July 2012 and has funding for four years.