New Research Award (Jan 14, 2014)

Prof. Fu just received a new research award from the National Science Foundation (NSF). This is an interdisciplinary collaboration with Prof. Nicholas Kirsch from UNH’s Electrical Engineering. The objective of this project is to detect and estimate the number of occupants in buildings to control building energy-consuming systems and thereby increase energy efficiency. Conventional occupancy sensors detect the presence of occupants, where a single person is treated equally as a group of people. For building controls such as lighting, these presence-based methods are sufficient. However, controls, such as ventilation, heating and cooling, may fluctuate considerably depending on the number of occupants in a room. Instead of detecting the physical presence of occupants from movements or body heat as in conventional sensors, the investigators propose to detect occupancy by sensing existing cellphone communications. A recently published study reported that 99% of individuals carry cellphones and even idle cellphones communicate routinely with cell towers. By sensing cellphone signals inside buildings, the investigators propose that the number and locations of cellphones (and their human carriers) can be accurately determined. The occupancy data will then be provided to building automation systems to improve energy efficiency by adjusting different building systems (ventilation, heating/cooling, etc.) accordingly.

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