NSF grant helps UT Arlington engineers commercialize new system to help consumers monitor, save energy costs
A UT Arlington Computer Science & Engineering team is developing a sensor and monitoring system to put consumers in charge of monitoring energy, gas and water use with a goal of saving them money.
The project builds on pervasive computing technology developed by professor Sajal Das, director of UT Arlington’s Center for Research in Wireless Mobility and Networking. Das and doctoral student Giacomo Ghidini are one of 100 recipient teams of a 2012 National Science Foundation Innovation Corps, or I-Corps, grant intended to move research to the marketplace.
“If this technology can save homeowners or businesses 10 to 15 percent of their energy expenses, that’s monumental,” Das said. “It gives them great insight and allows them to make informed decisions.”
Until now, energy providers have been in control of web-based, smart meter applications that can help homeowners and other consumers monitor and regulate energy consumption. With the pervasive computing system developed by Das and Ghidini, consumers would have the power, the researchers said.
“The system we have has mass potential because everyone wants to control their environment in their home,” Das said. “They don’t want to surrender that control to power providers.”
Das joined The University of Texas at Arlington in 1999 and has received nearly $2 million in NSF grants during the last several years in support of his work in pervasive computing and data fusion methods that accumulate information using high-tech sensors.
In the current project, the sensors record data that affects resource consumption, such as how many people are in a room, whether they are engaged in physical activity, how many appliances or lights are on and exterior humidity and temperature.
The data is analyzed to determine how much energy is needed to cool or heat a home. Homeowners would access information about optimal thermostat settings, for example, via a smartphone and web-based application.
The NSF has created three commercialization nodes in issuing I-Corps grants. They are at Stanford University, Georgia Tech University and University of Michigan. Das and Ghidini presented their recommendations at a Georgia Tech conference recently where potential investors, fellow I-Corps grant recipients and venture capital firms were present. Ghidini’s presentation focused on a business model to commercialize the technology.
“What makes the grant exciting is that we’re taking what we learn inside the lab to where it will be put to use,” Ghidini said.
Jean-Pierre Bardet, dean of the UT Arlington College of Engineering, said the work by Das and Ghidini is representative of the many real-world solutions being developed by University engineering teams.
“Energy consumption and our ability to control consumer costs affect everyone,” Bardet said. “UT Arlington researchers are committed to developing technology that improves our lives, and this NSF project is an important avenue for making that technology accessible commercially.”
The University of Texas at Arlington is a comprehensive research institution of more than 33,200 students in the heart of North Texas. Visit www.uta.edu to learn more.