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Award Abstract #1253709

CAREER: New Systems and Tools for Residential Sustainability Sensing

Division Of Computer and Network Systems
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Initial Amendment Date: March 14, 2013
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Latest Amendment Date: July 30, 2015
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Award Number: 1253709
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Award Instrument: Continuing grant
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Program Manager: M. Mimi McClure
CNS Division Of Computer and Network Systems
CSE Direct For Computer & Info Scie & Enginr
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Start Date: March 15, 2013
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End Date: February 28, 2018 (Estimated)
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Awarded Amount to Date: $294,678.00
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Investigator(s): Shwetak Patel shwetak@cs.washington.edu (Principal Investigator)
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Sponsor: University of Washington
4333 Brooklyn Ave NE
Seattle, WA 98195-0001 (206)543-4043
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Program Reference Code(s): 1045
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Program Element Code(s): 7354


Energy and resource monitoring for sustainability has garnered significant attention as an emerging global challenge. Residential energy and water consumption is one of the largest and least understood areas of consumption and is responsible for 28% of US energy consumption and 56% of US drinking water consumption. Strategies for addressing our energy and water crisis clearly require a multifaceted approach that transcends technology. However, for developing a more complete understanding of energy consumption in the home, computing technology plays a critical role in the collection, analysis, and presentation of data to answer important sustainability questions by the scientific community. Past work has demonstrated sustained energy savings of 10-15% in the home with the appropriate feedback of appliance-level usage data, but required complex sensor installations. A great challenge still remains in practically deploying sensing technologies to gather this relevant data at a large scale.

Current sensing methods remain in their infancy and are limited to small, isolated deployments, and many existing sensing approaches tend to be deemed obtrusive and difficult to install. In addition, no comprehensive public dataset on energy and water use and raw sensor data exists for researchers to build and compare new analytic tools and methods, thus limiting the ability to participate in this kind of work to a small number of groups who have access to this proprietary information through their own small deployments. The goal of this multi-year research project is to democratize sensing for sustainability by developing a complete electricity and water sensing and analytics platform for homes.

Intellectual Merit: This research will make progress on two grand challenges posed by the scientific community: 1) accelerated deployment of ubiquitous computing technology for improving quality of life and 2) the reduction of residential energy and water consumption.

This work involves novel approaches to sensing electricity and water use in the home using a small number of sensors. This includes the first full exploration of practical water sensing and analytic techniques that provide highly granular information on water use and combining electricity and water sensor streams for improved classification. This research focuses on the design, development, and evaluation (both hardware and software) of new, easy-to-install, and cost-effective sensing solutions. The insights and artifacts resulting from this research have merit in other applications beyond sustainability, such as elder care, in-home rehabilitation, and chronic disease management.

Broader Impact: The platform proposed in this research has direct implications for the growing focus on the energy and sustainability by both the federal and local governments. The potential ease of deployment for the proposed technology will make this a desirable technology for environmental researchers and ultimately homeowners who currently have little insight into their actual energy and water use. The comprehensive energy and water dataset collected with this research will serve as an enabler for others in this space to create their own analytic approaches. More generally, this data will enable scientists, engineers, and industry to answer foundational questions regarding energy and water.

The potential for the broad impact of this research coupled with the inherent interdisciplinary nature of ubiquitous computing integrates with an education plan designed to excite high school students and undergraduates to pursue careers in computing and engineering in general. They will learn about interdisciplinary research opportunities and engage in activities by participating in the primary investigator?s research lab around ?sustainable thinking.? New graduate-level courses will be designed to educate young researchers about relevant research topics in ubiquitous computing and learn new advanced prototyping techniques necessary for building real-world applications. New K-12 learning activities and projects will also be developed around sustainability.


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