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AI hones energy and carbon use profiles

Words:
Stephen Cousins

Is your washing machine energy-efficient? Are you drinking too much tea? Technology could soon be texting you the cost and carbon emission data from your separate appliances

Verv uses AI to split the mains supply into data on individual appliances in the home
Verv uses AI to split the mains supply into data on individual appliances in the home Credit: Verv

Residents across the UK could soon be able to monitor the cost and carbon emissions of individual appliances, including dishwashers, tumble dryers, TVs or even garage doors, thanks to innovative AI-powered smart homes technology.

Energy load disaggregation platforms like Verv and Voltaware connect to a property’s mains supply or smart meter and use algorithms to detect and analyse the unique energy signatures of different appliances. The data can be used to determine live energy use and cost, detect anomalies in equipment performance and identify faults before they occur.

The data is made available via smartphone apps. Energy suppliers are increasingly getting behind the technology, which has moved beyond the early adopter phase, to help their customers cut consumption and bills and create personalized promotions and recommendations. Data can also support their grid planning and load profiling and forecasting.

The Verv smart hub is also configured to enable the trading of domestic renewable energy between communities.

A spokesperson for Green Running, the creator of Verv, told RIBAJ: ‘There are lots of smart home products on the market that offer convenience, but we believe the true definition of a smart home is one that can also uncover hidden data and translate that into insights that can help us incorporate sustainability into our everyday lives ...Our goal is to reduce energy consumption and make white goods more efficient, longer lasting and sustainable while also reducing the faff associated with repairs and break-downs.’

Verv smart hubs offer a real-time breakdown of key appliance use and spend, as well as enable the trading of domestic renewable energy between communities
Verv smart hubs offer a real-time breakdown of key appliance use and spend, as well as enable the trading of domestic renewable energy between communities Credit: Verv

Business consultancy PricewaterhouseCoopers has been developing an energy disaggregation system with tech firm Lucid AI that categorises energy use based on lifestyle activity. Steve Jennings, head of the Power & Utilities Sector Practice at PwC, said: ‘The tool can tell you the amount of energy you used in the last 24 hours or the last half hour and it breaks activities down into eating, entertainment, cooking, washing etc. There is lots of insight available, the big question is how to turn it into actions that ultimately reduce consumption.’

The future roll out of the technology has the potential to reduce home insurance premiums by being able to demonstrate that appliances are operating safely, Verv sends users safety alerts when certain heated devices, such as hair straighteners, have been left on for too long.

But giving the utilities access to such granular-level data on homes also raises concerns. Customers may resent their data being used as a marketing tool, for example an electricity supplier could highlight the energy savings possible if an alternative fridge or dishwasher sold by one of its partners was purchased. Sensitive information on homeowners’ behaviour and preferences could be implied from the data, for example, large amounts of time spent eating could indicate that a family is unhealthy, or when appliances are not being used it could indicate that no one is at home.

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