Logo: University of Southern California

Information Sciences Institute Wins $2.1 Million DOE Award

ISI is applying ISI's smart grid technology to building level energy systems.

August 11, 2010 —

With a one-year, $2.1-million award from the U.S. Department of Energy, the Information Sciences Institute will be helping to solve the nation’s energy problems one building at a time.

ISI's project, entitled “Building Level Energy Management Systems,” involves developing a new information backbone and energy management approach at the building level. It will utilize new networking and energy allocation approaches for building energy management, which will improve both legacy systems and new building technologies.

Gordon Roesler
While the primary thrusts of the program are network and control strategies, many sensors, some of them new and some already existing, will be required.

"Sensors that may be useful could include room occupancy, temperature light level, air flow, power usage, electricity rates and eventually, output from renewable sources," says Gordon Roesler, ISI's director of energy research.

ISI, part of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, is a leader in cognitive systems, data exploration, and decision support and is already involved in large-scale smart grid research.

"We are part of the Los Angeles Smart Grid Demonstration Project with LA’s Department of Water and Power, and the Security for the Smart Energy Network program with Southern California Edison," says Roesler. "Smart buildings, smart meters and the smart grid are all interrelated.

He says the new award provides the opportunity to apply the new technologies on smaller scale systems, noting that the objectives at all scales are basically the same.

"It's all about saving energy, saving costs, and improving reliability," says Roesler. "We are looking forward to working with other USC researchers who have valuable expertise in buildings and energy systems.”

Preston Marshall, who directs ISI’s Decision Support Division, says “buildings need a way of getting information without loss of data. The key will be a delay-tolerant network strategy, coupled with optimal control methods that implement a Goldilocks approach—the amount of energy, room by room, that’s just right.”

Roesler explains that delay tolerance is a good fit for building level systems because it is more important not to lose data than to move it quickly. "Optimal control strategies might be able to customize energy in different parts of the building, perhaps even to individuals. Some may like it warmer or brighter, others cooler and dimmer."

Roesler says residential buildings account for 21 percent of U.S. energy consumption while commercial buildings use another 17 percent.

"Giving residents, building staff and owners more options and flexibility in energy use could make a big difference," he says. "How much savings we achieve will depend on the level of commitment as much as the technology."

The project will involve a live demonstration of the technology when it is developed, possibly on the USC campus.