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Smart Buildings That Control Energy Usage On The Way


Researchers at EPFL (École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne) have designed a new system for managing energy usage. The technology can be installed directly into a building, where it collects and records data on people’s energy usage. From there, the data is sent to a smart grid that can calculate the ideal amount of electricity needed. The grid will determine how to distribute energy based on several factors including cost, availability, and the customer’s needs.

The grid is being designed by researchers at the School of Engineering’s Electronics Laboratory. The system is capable of collecting data that covers both energy usage and overall comfort within the building. Data is gathered from a variety of connected devices, from sensors in appliances to smartphones. This allows the system to develop a comprehensive picture of the needs of an entire building by room. Once all the data is collected, the smart grid can determine the best and most effective way to distribute energy throughout the building.

What makes this technology so remarkable is its ability to collect data from virtually any sensor. By having a flexible interface that can adapt and adjust as needed, the program ensures the data will be highly protected and easily integrated with any type of building. The design was purposefully made to be as generic as possible, and the computer code behind it is all open source.

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“There are a huge number of smartphones and connected devices available on the market, covering everything from household and leisure appliances to safety. They all use sensors, but the underlying technologies can be very different. Our solution must be compatible with various technologies so that it can be connected to any device. That way, the building and the grid’s energy needs can be managed smoothly regardless of the devices in place.”

George Lilis, who worked on the interface as part of his PhD

This is just the beginning in terms of the potential of a smart grid. Researchers believe that one day soon buildings will be able to automatically adjust to the energy needs of their inhabitants. This work requires cross-disciplinary cooperation between a variety of fields, and a lot more research. But scientists are certain that smart buildings will one day provide a useful way to keep people comfortable and their energy levels optimal.

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