Appliances get ‘smart’

With a smart energy monitoring and management system, consumers will be able to monitor in real time where their energy is going and how much it costs.

The researchers are aiming to develop a wireless component for the system that will integrate wireless capability onto Semitech’s SiMAC chip to allow households to monitor the energy efficiency of their appliances.

The SiMAC chip is an existing technology that acts like a modem to allow monitoring and control data to communicate over exiting power line infrastructure.

Director of the La Trobe University Centre for Technology Infusion Professor Jugdutt Singh said the integrated system will provide a complete solution for “˜smart’ home and industrial resource management, including gas, water, electricity and appliances.

The university’s Centre for Technology Infusion and Semitech have installed the smart energy monitoring and management system at the university’s Research and Development Park, located in Bundoora, Victoria.

The pilot project automatically measures energy use and manages load for the Park’s entire Technology Enterprise Centre building in real time. It uses thirty retrofitted smart metres and a data concentrator with a SiMAC microchip.

“An advanced software interface using context-aware and persuasive software technologies has been integrated to influence users to change their behaviour and encourage energy conservation, resulting in reduction of green house gas emission,”? said Professor Singh.

He explained that the smart meters relay data to a central concentrator where the information can be stored for up to six months. “If someone turns on a heater it shows up as a peak on a graph on an interactive touch-screen display.”?

Professor Singh envisages a time when appliances will communicate directly with the consumer offering advice on the most economic time for their operation.

A dishwasher, for example, might “˜prefer’ to go to work at midnight rather than immediately after dinner, and householders will be able to respond by touching an interactive display system.

“At the current rate of expanding electricity consumption, power plants would have to be built at an exponential rate to meet future energy needs. Therefore, it will be more cost effective to manage energy usage consistently throughout the day than to increase power plant generation capacity,”? said Professor Singh.

Mr Singh said that ideally, the project “will create a conducive environment compelling users to make right lifestyle choices which not only have positive health impacts but also offer cost saving and an environmental friendly approach.”?

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