Smart Home Energy Software
Anyone walking through a big box store recently may have noticed that appliances are becoming “smarter”. From light switches and thermostats, to refrigerators and ovens, the latest generations of devices in our home are packed with sensors and are able to communicate with us. As the technology increases in quality and decreases in cost, homes of the future will be furnished with objects and complex networks capable of generating and relaying information around the house seamlessly. What does this mean for electricity usage? Even now, 40% of Canada’s energy demand is residential, and major appliances account for a large part of a household energy bill.
Hanan Lutfiyya and her research group in the Department of Computer Science at Western are developing ‘demand response software’ – programs that analyze how a household consumes electricity and then provide recommendations on how to adjust appliance usage. “We look at patterns of energy use in a home and can identify which appliances are being used and when,” says Lutifyya. “Considering that thousands of homes draw power from the same grid, we build software tools to plan individual household energy use. Orchestrating appliance use, and even the mode in which it operates, will prevent demand spikes during certain hours of the day and help lower energy costs,” she explains.
The Lutfiyya group is currently working on building software to understand the patterns of electricity consumption; they can even tell when a dryer is on a spin cycle just by looking at a house’s power use! “Before we can get to automating anything, first we need to recognize the patterns,” tells Lutfiyya. As this technology develops, it can eventually be implemented within the new smart devices themselves so that families will be able to visualize their own electricity use, while their appliances can coordinate to minimize energy costs. This latest project is focussed on user demand, complementing the Lutfiyya lab’s ongoing work in developing smart electrical grid technology.