Interesting fact: household energy consumption accounts for about a third of an individuals carbon footprint. You know that energy that powers your water-heater, lighting, thermostat, stove, refrigerator, A/C, television, personal devices, computer… Yes, all that. As long as our current methods of generating energy cause carbon emissions, environmental problems with persist.
But of course, there are plenty of things we could be doing to curb our use of power at the same time. Turning off the lights, shutting down unused devices, turning down the heat; all good energy-saving habits. And if we forget, perhaps a kindly voice could remind us. Say… an artificial intelligence with an eerily polite voice that monitors our energy usage and tells us how to do better.
That’s the idea being explored by Nigel Goddard, a professor at the University of Edinburgh’s School of Informatics who is trying to solve consumption problems by using cutting-edge AI techniques. In the multi-year IDEAL project that will be launching in 2013, Goddard and his colleagues will outfit hundreds of British homes with sensors that monitor temperature, humidity, and light levels, as well as gas and electricity use, and wirelessly report their readings.
The concept used here is known as “machine learning”, a branch of AI that involves the development of systems that can learn from data and anticipate behaviors. Once Goddard and his team have used this technique to process all the data returned by their sensors, they will rely on another cutting-edge technology – known as natural language synthesis – to generate automatic text messages that give people feedback about their energy use.
The goal is not just to reduce people’s carbon footprint, but save them money as well. At least that’s the approach Goddard and his team are taking when it comes to their automated texts. Naturally, the amount of money saved will be based on household size and income, among other factors. But Goddard and his team anticipate that the inclusion of these sensors in people’s homes will save them 20 % off their utility costs across the board.
Taken in conjunction with numerous developments in the fields of clean energy, touchscreen displays and and solar power, a utility-monitoring computer program could be just what the doctor ordered for every futuristic home. Provided of course, you don’t mind taking instruction from a friendly AI…
Maybe now would be a good time to institute the Three Laws of Robotics!