MIT Energy Monitoring System & NE Wisconsin Innovation

In a post earlier this week, “MIT Regional Entrepreneurship Accelerator Program,” I said NE Wisconsin tech innovation could benefit greatly from participating in the MIT REAP initiative.

New MIT Energy Monitoring System

A new MIT energy monitoring system for consumers that was in the news this week points to one way NE Wisconsin could work with MIT on disruptive innovation. This system is 10X innovative in estimated cost ($25 – $30 per home) and in design (simple MIT energy sensorinstallation, self-calibrating, OwnYourData IoT philosophy).

“…soon, there could be a much easier way to figure out exactly how much power is being used by every appliance, lighting fixture, and device in your home, with pinpoint accuracy and at low cost…the new MIT system has some key advantages over other approaches. First, it involves no complex installation…the system is designed to be self-calibrating. Second…the sensors can pick up enough detailed information about spikes and patterns in the voltage and current that the system can…tell the difference between every different kind of light, motor, and other device in the home and show exactly which ones go on and off, at what times. Perhaps most significantly, the system is designed so that all of the detailed information stays right inside the user’s own home…

Other groups have attempted to use wireless sensors to pick up the very faint magnetic and electric fields near a wire, but such systems have required a complex alignment process…The MIT team solved the problem by using an array of five sensors, each slightly offset from the others, and a calibration system that tracks the readings from each sensor and figures out which one is positioned to give the strongest signal.

“A bunch of major players have gotten into, and out of, this field,” says Leeb, including giants like Google and Microsoft. But now, he says, the MIT team has solved the key issues and come up with a practical and very powerful system…Once the system is developed into a commercial product, Leeb says, it should cost only about $25 to $30 per home…”

NE Wisconsin Innovating With MIT Technology

If NE Wisconsin participates in REAP, one of my recommendations is to work with MIT on developing niche areas of disruptive tech innovation activity. This new consumer energy monitoring system could fit in one of those niche areas.

The NE Wisconsin disruptive innovators could collaborate with the MIT REAP team and the MIT faculty and students developing relevant new technology. In the case of the energy monitoring system, maybe we could get 50 beta systems (costs covered by NE Wisconsin disruptive innovation supporters) and install them in area homes. We could then work with MIT to fine-tune the systems and maybe develop add-ons, related resource-monitoring devices, or a whole slew of other innovation ideas that might come from Canary Instruments energy monitor 2working on these systems.

I worked on a startup company in northern California that made an energy monitor with similar goals — to measure the electricity being used in a home or smaller living units such as apartments. The competitive advantage of the Canary Instruments monitor was using color feedback to indicate energy usage level, rather than using numbers to show how many units of electrical power are being consumed by all the devices in your home.

The sensors we used to measure electricity usage for the Canary Instruments energy monitors were current transformers, or CTs. The MIT sensors would be easier to install than CTs and are designed to monitor the power differently. It would be fun to use the MIT monitoring system with the Canary Instruments consumer feedback approach.Nexi energy monitor

[Since I left the startup, they’ve developed a new consumer feedback interface called Nexi, still using the color feedback concept, but with a different form factor. I’m not sure which style I like better. Would have to use both of them to see which one appealed most to me over a period of weeks or months.]

The new MIT energy monitoring system is only one of many thousands of disruptive tech innovations being worked on right now at MIT. I guarantee you I could easily find ten or twenty other MIT research projects that could lead to worthwhile NE Wisconsin niche disruptive innovation projects…

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