With funding from BPA, researchers at the
"We're honored for this project to receive this prestigious award," said
For the past 30 years, most occupancy sensors relied on motion detection and often performed inconsistently. "Occupancy sensor technology needs to be updated so we don't have to wave our arms to keep the lights on or have a bunch of well-lit empty rooms," said engineer
Since lighting accounts for about 40 percent of the commercial electricity use in the Northwest, BPA and NREL, DOE's main laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research, pursued the idea that better and more robust occupancy sensors could lead to big energy savings. So in 2011, the two agencies kicked off new research that expanded upon an original concept of image-processing occupancy sensors.
But IPOS isn't just a breakthrough for lighting controls. The size of a stick of gum, IPOS combines an inexpensive camera with a high-speed microprocessor and computer algorithms to detect movement and human presence in a room. It can also count the people in a room, document their location and register their activity level -- information that could be useful in regulating a building's ventilation.
"It offers the potential of putting lighting or ventilation only where it's needed," said NREL senior engineer
Initial studies show it's extremely accurate, boasting detection accuracy rates above 90 percent. In addition to detecting occupants, the camera and computer vision algorithms also recognize spots where there aren't any people and measure the level of luminance and other variables.
Researchers are looking beyond controlling lights and air conditioning systems. Other potential applications include daylight harvesting, daylighting system commissioning, occupancy logging and daylight logging, as well as other uses in security, energy efficiency and customer interactivity.
Even though motion-detection systems are mandated for most new construction, only 7 percent of commercial spaces in
"Innovative new technologies like this are critical to BPA's ability to support the region's growing power needs through energy efficiency," added Genece.
The new system is currently being tested in a few environments, including a large retailer in
The R&D 100 Awards honor the most significant new technology products to enter the market in a mix of industry sectors. Winners, selected by an independent panel and the editors of
BPA's emerging technologies program, often referred to as E3T, is a collaborative effort between BPA, Northwest publicly-owned utilities, manufacturers, researchers, universities and experts to identify and advance new technologies with the greatest potential to help the region achieve the energy efficiency goals set by the
BPA's E3T team is also demonstrating and evaluating new technologies related to variable capacity heat pumps; heat pump water heater applications; advanced lighting innovations, including LEDs; rooftop air conditioning; and energy management, including behavioral-based savings.
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