The key advantage of the new MIT system over other approaches is, first it involves no complex installation ? no wires need to be disconnected and the placement of the postage-stamp-sized sensors over the incoming power line does not require any particular precision. The system is designed to be self-calibrating. Second, because it samples data very quickly, the sensors can pick up enough detailed information about spikes and patterns in the voltage. It can then give you the difference between every kind of light, motor, and other device at home and show exactly which one goes on and off, at what time.
The software-driven sensor was developed by MIT Professor of Electrical Engineering Steven Leeb and his students David Lawrence and John Donnal. The paper was published this week in the IEEE Sensors Journal.
Tests show, the system has the potential to save energy and greenhouse emissions and even improve safety. One installation at a military base used for training exercises revealed, large tents were being heated all day during winter months, even though they were unoccupied for most of the daytime hours. Another test installation at a home found an anomalous voltage pattern that revealed a wiring flaw that caused some copper plumbing pipes to carry a potentially dangerous live voltage.
?For a long time, the premise has been that if we could get access to better information (about energy use), we would be able to create some significant savings,? Leeb says.
A significant advantage of the system is, all information generated by it is protected, eliminating concerns about privacy. A detailed analysis, including the potential for specialised analysis based on an individual user?s specific needs or interests can be provided by customised apps that can be developed using the new system.
Once fully developed into commercial scale, Leeb says, it should cost only about $25 or $30 per home. ?We?re trying to lower the barriers to installation,? says co-author John Donnal, and this noncontact sensor is simple enough for most home users to install on their own. ?It just goes on with a zip tie,? he says.
Image courtesy: MIT