La Trobe tool for smarter living showcased at global 'cleantech' expo

La Trobe tool for smarter living showcased at global 'cleantech' expo

19 Sep 2008

A 'smart' energy meter developed by La Trobe University and Semitech Innovations aims to show consumers in 'real time' where their energy is going and how much it costs.

From left, Professor Singh at Copenmind with Australia's Ambassador to Denmark, Ms Sharyn Minahan; Trade Commissioner Mr Flemming Stig Larsen; and Senior Business Development Manager, Ms Andrea Wilson Skov

A pilot project using thirty of these meters is now underway at the University's main Melbourne campus at Bundoora.

Smart living is about making lifestyle choices that, among other things, can save energy costs and reduce our carbon footprint.

The project has already attracted considerable interest.  La Trobe University was one of the leaders in a delegation of Australia universities and companies that attended Copenmind 2008, a global exhibition and conference held in Copenhagen, Denmark, early in September. 

Aimed at forming 'cleantech' partnerships, Copenmind 2008, attracted more than 100 universities and 4,000 international companies

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research, Professor Tim Brown says the pilot project is just one initiative La Trobe University is taking towards reducing its environmental footprint. 

'The first step in assessing the technology is to demonstrate its value in a corporate setting. Many of the tenants at our Technology Enterprise Centre will now be able to take responsibility for monitoring their own consumption,' he says.

Professor Jugdutt Singh, Director of the University's Centre for Technology Infusion, says the project aims to encourage people to better manage energy by providing them with a range of data about their energy use.

'At the moment there are only two electricity tariffs in Victoria,' says Professor Singh. 'With the State's electricity meters due to go entirely digital, tariffs will vary during the day according to demand. Peak energy use, especially residential use, occurs mornings and evenings.

'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.'

La Trobe's Centre for Technology Infusion and Semitech Innovations have installed their smart energy monitoring and management system at the University's Research and Development Park.

The pilot project automatically measures energy use and manages load for the Park's entire Technology Enterprise Centre (TEC) building in real-time. It uses thirty retrofitted smart meters 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,' says Professor Singh.

He explains 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.'

Next generation 'smart' research

While trying to reduce energy demand and environmental impacts, the project is also helping develop 'next-generation smart living'.

Professor Singh says 'smart living' links technology and lifestyle, but goes beyond convenience, entertainment and comfort.

'Ideally it 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.

'The research carried out at La Trobe is to integrate wireless capability onto the SiMAC chip to provide a complete solution for "smart" home and industrial resource management, including gas, water, electricity and appliances.'

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.

Further information

Professor Jack Singh




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