Reduction of Energy Demand in Buildings through Optimal Use of Wireless Behaviour Information (Wi-be) Systems

Lead Research Organisation: University of Reading
Department Name: Construction Management and Engineering


The recent availability of very low power (e.g., battery powered) wireless sensors, networks and personal communication devices has enabled the exploration of wireless systems for both monitoring personal energy use and for feeding back the information directly to individuals responsible. These are based on static wireless sensors utilising low cost, small, low power digital radio (ZigBee) and real-time user location sensors using RFID and Ultra-wideband (UWB) radio frequency technologies. Low cost, low power, user feedback technologies include Ekahau Wi-Fi based devices and mobile phones.The Wi-be system is truly user-centric and promises huge potential for instigating behaviour change and substantial energy demand reduction: it complements the smart metering technology and takes a significant step further in helping to identify specific wasteful energy use, actions to take and the persons to take them. Unlike the smart meter, which is expected to provide overall consumption data in specific feedback formats [11], the Wi-be approach forms a people/building energy technology interface that promises much greater energy behaviour changes that are widely replicable and adaptable to future energy technology scenarios. When implemented and used over a period of time, it could potentially bring about a durable behavioural change leading to efficient energy uses.However, development of this technology gives rise to inter-related challenges spanning ICT, building energy and user behaviour, which so far are largely being researched in isolation. What is required is a multi-disciplinary study to bring about a step change in the understanding of Wi-be technology to ensure its effectiveness and successful uptake. Based on a new collaboration, the study will provide tools, guidance and vastly improved understanding for effective implementations of the technology that would result in durable and significant reduction of energy demand. Specific objectives include:1. Construct a state-of-the-art very-low-power Wi-be system for monitoring and communicating personal energy behaviours in both domestic and non-domestic buildings. This will involve both in-building and on-body sensors and will be installed in an office building and a house, to be used as test beds for the integrated research:2. Conduct cross-disciplinary assessment of Wi-be by integrating the following: a. Sensor Network Research - determining what is practical, in terms of building and body sensors, in order to capture energy-inefficient behaviour; b. Wireless Research - modelling of wireless sensor signal propagation to ascertain the optimum configurations (e.g., location, power levels) and potential limitations to physical deployment of wireless sensors, network and other related communication devices operating at very low power (and consequently very long battery life); c. Behavioural Research - determine the optimum feedback interface, format and timing of sensor data presentation to individual energy users in order to achieve the best effects on stimulating immediate action and durable behavioural change; d. Building Energy Research - to assess interactions between building energy demand, supply and user behaviour, as well as benchmarks, and their implications for optimum arrangement for feedback to users;3. To engage users, manufacturers and other stakeholders to ensure quality and relevance of the results and their effective dissemination for commercial deployment. Dissemination of the integrated methodology, established in this feasibility study, will permit future deployment into large scale assessments and commercial exploitation.

Planned Impact

Direct beneficiaries include manufacturers of wireless sensors, communication, feedback devices or other components of Wi-be or manufacturers/providers of complete systems. The proposed project integrates ICT, behaviour and building energy investigations to provide a step change in the understanding of effective technology, and feedback content and format, resulting in vastly improved Wi-be performance. Other exploitable outputs include potentially new sensors for building energy application and the signal propagation model that will facilitate wireless sensor & communication design and deployment. These innovations will help make products of these companies more intuitive to use, and more effective, leading to greater technical and financial performances. Two leading manufacturers are directly involved in the project: Philips is a world-class manufacturer and has already been working with partners in the consortium on wireless micro systems and devices. MircoWatt is a leading innovative manufacturer of Wi-be systems,and has been collaborating with a partner in the consortium for several years on the high profile Creative Energy Homes project. In addition to the benefits outlined above, the two manufacturers will also gain greater expertise through participation in the research. They will also benefit from the project dissemination efforts through greater awareness of their products and expertise as leaders in this technology. Indirect beneficiaries include any organisations committed to reduce energy consumption either voluntarily or under the CRC and other mechanisms. The strategies of many organisations for achieving this objective would rely to a significant degree on changing user behaviour, although there are few reliable tools and methods to help them achieve durable behaviour change - the proposed research would bridge this gap by providing an effective means for this purpose. A wide range of organisations would benefit, including local authorities which have large building stocks, housing associations, companies with office buildings, schools, universities and facility managers, as would householders. They would also benefit from reduced energy bills. Furthermore, energy consultants assisting various organisations with their carbon emission reduction targets would have a highly powerful technology at their disposal. They would achieve better results with their projects and gain more customers. The smart meter companies, regulators and standard bodies would also benefit from the user-technology interaction insights. Demonstration of the Wi-be technology to stakeholders will be conducted regularly at the case study buildings as required. Conference style stakeholder event(s), at mid-term and/or closer to completion of the project, will be run as appropriate with the aim of seeking input and promoting exploitation. In addition, the proposed research would feed into development of standards, such as the proposed ETSI/CENELEC standard described above by both invitation to the Advisory Panel and stakeholder events and submitting summary papers to the Standard Bodies concerned. The personal behaviour angle of the research makes it suitable for dissemination via, partially, mass media, as well as the usual channels of journals, conferences, websites, trade publications and exhibitions. The partner organisations have excellent support infrastructure for legal, financial, patent and other services, as well as considerable experience thus fully capable of dealing with exploitation of the research outcome.


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Related Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Award Value
EP/I000259/1 01/10/2010 31/08/2012 £597,628
EP/I000259/2 Transfer EP/I000259/1 01/09/2012 30/09/2013 £154,427
Description This project followed on from an earlier TSB project THERM which is one of the earliest in the UK addressing data based energy management in buildings and developing related energy efficiency framework for managing and eliminating energy waste. This is one of the RCUK Energy and Digital Economy TEDDI Programme of projects investigating into this subject area. These academic and industry research projects feed into an exponential growth of an industry sector on sensor- and data-based energy management in buildings and processes. These include innovative companies such as NoWatt and EnergyDeck and also industry platforms such as the EDIE exhibition and conference series. Although there is no explicit evidence yet showing that the project has triggered these developments, it has certainly contributed to an academic and industrial environment in which these developments took place.
First Year Of Impact 2012
Sector Construction,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Energy,Environment
Impact Types Economic