Pervasive Computing for Efficient Energy

Pervasive Computing for Efficient Energy

Mária Bieliková (Slovak University of Technology in Bratislava, Slovakia), Marián Hönsch (Slovak University of Technology in Bratislava, Slovakia), Michal Kompan (Slovak University of Technology in Bratislava, Slovakia), Jakub Šimko (Slovak University of Technology in Bratislava, Slovakia) and Dušan Zeleník (Slovak University of Technology in Bratislava, Slovakia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61692-857-5.ch027
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Increasing energy consumption requires our attention. Resources are exhaustible, so building new power plants is not the only solution. Since residential expenditure is of major parts of overall consumption, concept of intelligent household has potential to participate on energy usage optimization. In this chapter, we concentrate on software methods, which based on inputs gained from an environment monitor, analyze and consequently reduce non-effective energy consumption. We gave a shape to this concept by description of real prototype system called ECM (Energy Consumption Manager). Besides active energy reduction, the ECM system also has an educative function. User-system interaction is designed to teach the user how to use (electric, in case of our prototype) energy effectively. Methods for the analysis are based on artificial intelligence and information systems fields (neural networks, clustering algorithms, rule-based systems, personalization and adaptation of user interface). The system goes further and gains more effectiveness by exchange of data, related to consumption and appliance behaviour, between households.
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Man and Comfort

Although many inventions in the world were made due to war effort or high tax policies, technical progress is basically powered by mankind’s laziness. Through the whole history, there were always smart people, who invested their time into thinking, what would make their work easier or will even substitute them in particular activities. Neolithic agricultural worker used primitive tools made of bones and had indeed a hard time cultivating his field. But inventions such as bronze and iron smelting and forging, draught cattle, crop rotation or watering system meant significant difference in effort/result ratio. With such trends, we can imagine that in not-so-far future, men will no longer be necessary as manual workers. They will act just as administrators of fully automated systems.

Such trends are driven by people’s demands for more comfort and less manual work. In the past, it took quite long time for inventions to be developed. But today, we have a powerful weapon: computers. We could hardly find a similar thing; computers are versatile and already brought revolution in easing human life. People use computers to fulfil their tasks efficiently. Now it is time for next step: leaving the computers to work independently from human.

Non Effective Energy Consumption: Phenomenon and Problem

Talking about inventions, electricity is also one that pushed world forward significantly and is used widely. Unfortunately, electric energy production is starting to backfire: sources are exhaustible and most of energy is produced with techniques that somehow damage the environment or are potentially dangerous. Thus, we are logically making a senseless hazard, if energy produced is not used efficiently or completely wasted. The more power we use, the more responsible we become. Based on that, we are pointing towards most developed parts of the world, which are the greatest energy consumers.

We use electric power for different purposes in industry, traffic, offices or households. In this chapter, we focus closely on the consumption of last two groups. A non-efficient consumption can be defined as a usage of energy that does not produce sufficient (if any) return value. In the field of households and offices, energy usage consists of a large and heterogeneous set of cases (heating, lightning, various appliances used for different purposes). Each case has its own set of bad practices that cause non-efficient consumption. Each bad practice can be somehow eliminated, but this requires effort (e.g., a change of habits, introducing a new technology). Large number of cases means a lot of effort. Sometimes the amount of effort seems to be even greater than resulting benefit. Fortunately, besides environmental aspect, people are motivated financially to reduce their consumption.

In major cases like heating (which consumes greatest part of energy in households) or lightning certain solutions have been developed to reduce the energy wasting (e.g., isolations, fluorescent tubes). But there is also a group of “minor” cases of non-efficient energy usage, each often considered “insignificant”, but together worth of thinking. This group includes:

  • Old and malfunctioning devices. Some appliances may do additional consumption when they become older: they start to have various defects (like broken tubing and ice expansion in fridge or water stone in wash machine) or just become outdated (by newer, more effective appliances). Such problems are usually solvable (by repair or buying a new appliance). The problem is their invisibility and ignorance. Major defects can be possibly indicated on energy bill, but minor have a good chance to stay unseen as this kind of problems obviously do not arise suddenly, but aggravate little by little.

  • Standby. What is the price for device “readiness”? Almost 10% of residential energy consumption is used for silenced-but-prepared state of some appliances, known as standby mode1. “Standby modes” use various amounts of electric power (from fractions to tens of watts in extreme cases) and are sometimes used for computations (like watch). But in most cases standby is just to provide more comfort for the user (automatic or remote switching). In fact, most of standby does not provide any other value and are simply wasting energy. Solution is to dutifully turn such appliances off when they are not used. Unfortunately, this requires lot of user’s strong will not to forget.

  • “Forgotten appliances”. Empty rooms with turned on lights, TV, computer or iron: non-efficient energy usage, caused by man’s business. Like in case of standby, “solution” is simple: turn everything off after action. Easy to say, hard to execute.

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