A new electrical monitoring system, created by a team of engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), will provide every day consumers with the ability to track power consumption of household devices through simple installation of a small stamp-sized sensor and downloading a companion app.
The team at MIT developed the system using an array of five sensors. These non-contact electromagnetic field sensors are offset to create a unique self-calibration process and to enable monitoring currents in cables from a distance. The sensor device is shaped the size of a postage stamp and is to be placed over the incoming power line to track the spikes and patterns in voltage and current. Details are then submitted wirelessly back to the app to interpret the data. The system is sensitive enough to identify different devices and determine when they are turned on, off, or are running based on the variations in current and voltage.
Of course, to first achieve this the team needed to study the distinctive characteristics of each device to identify and catalog the unique signatures so the system could correlate the data. With the significant advantage to precisely identify and track a device’s power consumption users can employ counter measures for cost-savings and power reduction.
As an extra touch, a feature of the software allows users to zoom in on specific time slots revealing when a specific device begins to or is consuming power. Also, with this new system only limited data is submitted for cloud processing meaning that data remains within the home in efforts to protect user privacy. The hope is that once the system is commercially developed it can be offered for a low cost enabling consumers to save energy, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and lower total energy costs.
The team at MIT described their work in the August 1, 2016 issue of IEEE Sensors Journal. The paper is titled Current and Voltage Reconstruction From Non-Contact Field Measurements.