Energy Research at the University of Washington

Shwetak Patel

Energy Research Area: Low-cost and Easy-to-Deploy Energy and Water Sensing for Demand Side Energy Monitoring in the Home

Assistant Professor
College of Engineering
Computer Science and Engineering
Electrical Engineering

Reducing use of energy and water is one way homeowners can do their part to decrease pollution and slow global warming. Monitoring utility demand in real time has not been easy or affordable for the general public until now – Dr. Patel and his team have developed sensors and networks that allow on-line monitoring of water and electricity use by recognizing the unique ‘signature’ given off by every faucet, toilet, appliance and electronic device in the home. Using this system, residents can track their electricity and water consumption, and take advantage of off-peak power rates.

At the heart of the Dr. Patel’s utility monitoring system is a novel pattern recognition technology that, once calibrated, can identify individual components of a home’s plumbing or electrical system. The beauty of the system is that the homeowner only needs to install one pressure sensor, usually at the outside hose faucet or water heater drain valve. The entire home’s water usage can then be tracked down to the use of each fixture. The signal recognition software is smart enough to distinguish between two or more simultaneous events, such as two different faucets being turned on at the same time.

Similar technology has been developed to monitor electrical systems. As with the water sensor, a single sensor plugged into a conventional wall outlet will detect a variety of electrical events throughout the home, each of which has its own unique electrical noise signal. Machine learning techniques allow the monitoring system to distinguish between each light switch, home appliance or electronic device, such as a computer or TV.

After winning the EIC
After winning the EIC

Research Images

HydroSense installed in a home One of our students demonstrating HydroSense during the EIC competition

Company Spin Outs / Technology Licensing

Record last updated on October 28th 2014 PDT.