Top Innovators: University of Washington/Zensi

| FROM THE PRINT EDITION |
 
 

Shwetak PatelYou probably don’t know it yet, but each appliance in your home sings its own particular song. Recognizing that song could help households cut their energy consumption. Shwetak Patel and his students at the University of Washington have developed intelligent in-home sensors that are able to differentiate between different appliances drawing gas through a line by using acoustic recognition to identify each appliance’s “song.”

The sensors are available in three different models: HydroSense, GasSense and Powerline Event Detection (PED). Each sensor performs the same task, albeit in a slightly different way. HyrdoSense relies on the different pressures, GasSense uses acoustics and PED analyzes spikes from electrical switches flipped inside mechanical devices.

Using such devices, customers can see what appliances are using energy and take measures to reduce their use or to unplug appliances that consume energy when not in use. The technology can also help utilities create incentives for consumers to restrict the use of energy-hungry appliances to off-peak periods.

Energy monitors were previously a luxury available only to large companies. In April, Los Angeles-based Belkin acquired Patel’s startup, Zensi, and will soon bring energy monitors that use Zensi’s technology to market, allowing homeowners to identify specific sources of wasted energy.

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Sponsored

Smart Glasses Improving Workflow for HVAC Projects

Smart Glasses Improving Workflow for HVAC Projects

Wearable technology increases productivity for HVAC technicians
 
 

Sponsored by MacDonald-Miller

XOEye technologies created a smart glasses tool, built specifically for field technicians to capture real-time documentation. When MacDonald-Miller heard about the new wearable technology platform, they saw it as an opportunity to be the first mechanical contractor in the Pacific Northwest to implement these smart glasses into their services.

We interviewed MacDonald-Miller’s Chief Information Officer, Bradd Busick, to hear first-hand how this new technology will be integrated into services and how it will streamline HVAC projects.

What are the capabilities of the smart glasses? 

The smart glasses, MacLens, capture and stream high fidelity audio and visual content, enabling first-person point-of-view (POV). MacLens includes a camera, earpiece, and microphone — all built into a single headset, capturing real-time documentation of equipment, work performed, and recommendations being made. 

How does it work for technicians?

Once service techs arrive onsite, they put their MacLens glasses on to create an intro video communicating where they are, a brief diagnosis or repair identification, and a summary recap for the customer. After the site visit is complete, the tech then uploads the content to the call summary report on the customer portal, where customers can access it at their convenience.

What is the benefit for the end-user?

Building owners and property managers have to trust their maintenance provider is actually doing the work they claim. Most building owners will never see the work being done on their properties, but they will receive a list of recommendations for changes and a bill. It’s a relationship built on trust. MacLens adds a level of transparency and customer experience where we are able to show in real-time what is happening on roofs and in mechanical rooms. MacLens embeds audio and video content into each summary report, providing customers with the peace of mind that comes with unbridled transparency.

What is the vision behind this technology roll-out?

The goal is to enhance the customer connection to the services provided and also enable technicians to connect with each other. There are incredible operational efficiencies that enable mobility and collaboration through telepresence and increased accountability.

How will they affect the next wave of HVAC technicians?

Not only will MacLens increase workflow productivity, but it also offers training opportunities and safety benefits without adding any additional work to service technicians. This is a major educational advantage. Now expert journeyman can train apprentices simply by walking through their daily tasks, recording those sessions and sharing them in our learning management system — it’s the next evolution of training!

See MacLens in action here.

MacDonald-Miller Facility Solutions is a full-service, design-build, mechanical contractor in the Pacific Northwest. Learn more about MacDonald-Miller’s recent projects.