Green Business

Praveen Shivaswamy (India) - Smart Green Home: an Indian Perspective

Raising energy costs worldwide (crude oil prices cross 100$ mark) and specifically the pinch we see with raising petrol and diesel prices in India (Metro cities for example), clearly sends a message on how we are heading into the future. Blend this with an average inflation rate of 8%, and one can imagine how expensive it would be to run a household.

Of course it can be argued that cutting consumption and switching to alternate sources of energy is the way to go, but a reality check indicates we are not there yet, it is not commercially viable.

Instead, could we be prudent in our energy use? Can we make technology work in our favour to control the energy costs and thereby bring down consumption?

This is old news, however well implemented. Particularly in our context, home designs should start with a requirement to be energy compliant. Both the architectural design and lifestyle needs in the home should correspond with the goal of achieving better energy efficiency.
Today's lifestyle devices are fairly decent in terms of features and energy star ratings. For example, sensors built into the air conditioners detect movement and channel the air flow, or switch off if there is nobody in the room. Home lighting sensors controls the cost of illumination. Refrigerators and washing machines have advanced technologies to sense the load and tune the power needs.

What we have seen so far is that every device contributes its share to reducing consumption, yet is not working as an eco-system, where home user can appreciate the savings and control that suit their needs. Can the home owner identify the top 5 energy consuming devices in real-time? Can those devices be controlled? And better yet, can the devices be controlled remotely using a mobile phone?

There are two things to consider. Is this technologically feasible? Is this cost effective? Technologically it is possible, however it is a challenge to implement standards based (e.g. WiFi, Zigbee or Z-wave) so that the same can be adapted worldwide and across all the devices. Even though this adds to the overall cost, the idea is to recoup the costs through power savings over the years.

With the increased penetration of smart phones amongst the youth and professional population (current estimate is 15%, expected to grow to 20% by end of 2011), it is imperative that the home controls be taken to the next level. Within the smart phone segment, Android has taken hold of the market (>35% market share). One could anticipate the same growth rates being achieved with the deep integration of Android in lifestyle devices.

Being open source and Linux based, Android OS can be integrated easily into lifestyle devices. This is the first step towards smart integration. We can imagine our homes to be small interconnected networks - with many smart devices talking to a network gateway (Wifi or ZigBee or Z-Wave), with the gateway taking care of messaging, either as a SMS, or using data channel (GPRS or ADSL). Various applications can be implemented on smart phones; to analyse the home energy usage patterns, control the devices remotely, share feedback on the device performance etc.

A few cases to understanding the power of integration are presented below:

• Ambient light sensor connected to the home lighting system detects drop due to cloudy weather

• CCTV reports movement in the house

• Refrigerator reports about the contents stored inside and the current temperature

• Every smart device periodically reports the power consumption statistics

In each of the above cases, user will be able to take the appropriate action.
As technology advances, it would be interesting to see the combinatorial effect of smart devices talking to each other. For example, home entertainment system playing music based on home lighting. Based on the CCTV feedback, certain portions of the home may be illuminated brighter than the others etc.

Praveen Shivaswamy, Head Operations, Smart Sky Electronics & Research Pvt Ltd.




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