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Platform to Estimate Building Occupancy

United Technologies Research Center (UTRC)

PEOPLE: Platform to Estimate Occupancy and Presence for Low Energy Buildings

Program: 
ARPA-E Award: 
$1,956,775
Location: 
East Hartford, CT
Project Term: 
05/11/2018 to 11/10/2020
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: 

United Technologies Research Center (UTRC) will develop a low-cost occupancy solution that combines radar sensing technology with an infrared focal plane array (IR-FPA) to determine occupancy in buildings. The solution will also be deployed as a radar-only residential sensor for true human presence sensing. The radar will detect respiration or heartbeat of non-moving occupants by measuring the radar signal reflections caused by chest movement. The system's machine learning algorithms will allow it to distinguish humans from pets in residential settings and to reduce under-counting errors in commercial deployments. The radar will enable through-wall presence sensing in multiple rooms by a single sensor, reducing the sensor hardware and installation cost on a per square foot basis. The solution aims to address the high cost and failure rate of current presence sensors that are preventing large-scale adoption of occupancy based control of HVAC, lighting, and plug loads.

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. Jennifer Gerbi
Project Contact: 
Ankit Tiwari
Partners
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Release Date: 
11/16/2017