The true smart home won’t happen unless we think in terms of “smart power”

Products like Nest’s Internet-connected ‘learning thermostat’ and similar remote-control lighting and appliance controllers have given consumers a glimpse of smart home technology. At the same time, the growing popularity of domestic robots has opened the door to advanced technologies like sensor-based systems, voice recognition, and artificial intelligence in the home.

These advances notwithstanding, few people have ever actually seen a smart home, while even fewer have ever lived in one. And, if you’ve tried to retrofit your home you know this: Though there are various devices on the market (learning thermostats, smart locks, lighting controllers and the like) they don’t always work together, especially if they come from different manufacturers.

Tapping the full potential of the smart homes and commercial buildings will require the integration and deployment of an efficient electric energy management system that is capable of intelligent interaction with new and emerging consumer electronic technologies and a smart electric power grid.

The payoff will be significant. In 2015, about 40% of total U.S. energy consumption was in residential and commercial buildings — about 39 quadrillion BTUs, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. But absent a new approach to power use, much of this energy it wasted as homeowners leave air conditioners on in empty homes, office workers keep equipment and lights on overnight, etc.

From a current engineering perspective, reducing the wastage will require a higher level of comprehensive, multidisciplinary technology integration than currently exists. The mix of key smart home components and technology needing further integration include:

◦ Intelligent power generation: Using multiple distributed sources like central power stations, wind and solar installations, energy harvesting to provide energy when and where it is needed.

◦ Data collection: Deploying sensors to detect ambient temperature, light, vibrations, smoke, chemical hazards, etc., coupled to area control and master control units that initiate actions in response to detected conditions.

◦ Analytics: Software that analyzes collected data for operational evaluation, equipment alerts, cost breakdowns and other outputs.

◦ Connectivity: Central wired systems can use the Internet Protocol (IP) to handle large data, but sensing units — often battery powered — require either wireless protocols such as Zigbee, or power line communications (PLC), given the need to minimize installation costs.

◦ Compact, low-power hardware: Semiconductor-based solutions for monitoring, communications, control and efficient power conversion are the primary drivers for the development of smart power.

Broadly, what I am describing is monitoring, connectivity and control. Some people in the industry have come up with a new term — Smart Power — to describe this set of functions. Simply defined, the goal of Smart Power is to provide energy when and where it is needed, drawing upon a multiplicity of sources. Read More..