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Low-energy PIR Sensor for Occupancy Detection

Texas A&M University

SLEEPIR - Synchronized Low-energy Electronically-chopped PIR Sensor for Occupancy Detection

Program: 
ARPA-E Award: 
$1,000,000
Location: 
College Station, TX
Project Term: 
08/27/2018 to 08/26/2021
Project Status: 
ACTIVE
Technical Categories: 
Critical Need: 

Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) consumes a significant portion of the energy used in buildings. Much of this is wasted energy, used when buildings are either not occupied at all, or occupied well under their maximum design conditions. Traditional motion sensors are often used in buildings to adjust lighting levels, but they cannot provide advanced quantitative information about the environment. New classes of sensor systems used to enable advanced control of HVAC levels can include human presence sensors, people counting sensors, and low-cost CO2 sensors. Their improved accuracy and reliability can reduce energy consumption for homes and commercial environments.

Project Innovation + Advantages: 

Texas A&M University will develop an advanced, low-cost occupancy detection solution for residential homes. Their system, called SLEEPIR, is based on pyroelectric infrared sensors (PIR) a popular choice for occupancy detection and activity tracking due to their low cost, low energy consumption, large detection range, and wide field of view. However, traditional PIR sensors can only detect individuals in motion. The team proposes a next-generation PIR sensor that is able to detect non-moving heat sources and provide quantitative information on movement. Their innovation relies on the use of an "optical chopper" which temporarily interrupts the flow of heat to the sensor and allows the device to detect both stationary and moving individuals. The team will evaluate several approaches for the chopper, such as new low-power liquid crystal technology with no moving parts. They will apply new signal processing techniques and machine learning to the infrared data, enabling differentiation between pets and people and potentially sleep vs. active states. A central hub accepts wireless data from the sensors and overrides the home thermostat as needed to adjust temperatures and provide up to 30% energy savings to the home.

Potential Impact: 

If successful, SENSOR projects will dramatically reduce the amount of energy needed to effectively heat, cool, and ventilate buildings without sacrificing occupant comfort.

Security: 

Lower electricity consumption by buildings eases strain on the grid, helping to improve resilience and reduce demand during peak hours, when the threat of blackouts is greatest. 

Environment: 

Using significantly less energy could help reduce emissions attributed to power generation. In addition, improved interior air quality could help prevent negative effects on human health.

Economy: 

Buildings will require less energy to operate, reducing heating, cooling, and ventilation costs for businesses and families. In addition, better controlled ventilation may lead to improved indoor air quality (ensured by an accurate occupant count, and validated via widespread CO2 detection) may lead to improved worker productivity and academic performance.

Contacts
ARPA-E Program Director: 
Dr. Marina Sofos
Project Contact: 
Dr. Ya Wang
Release Date: 
11/16/2017