Top Innovators: University of Washington/Zensi


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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2016 Tech Impact Awards: Tech Impact Champion

2016 Tech Impact Awards: Tech Impact Champion

Congratulations, Ed Lazowska!

Ed Lazowska, Ph.D.
Bill & Melinda Gates Chair in Computer Science & Engineering, University of Washington

When Ed Lazowska arrived in Seattle 39 years ago as an assistant professor, both the University of Washington and the region were very different places. In computer science, he was the newest of only 13 faculty members. The region’s tech industry largely consisted of Boeing, Fluke and Physio-Control. Microsoft at the time was still a dozen people in Albuquerque. 
Today, the UW’s Computer Science & Engineering Department rivals Stanford’s and Carnegie Mellon’s for attracting tech talent and major research — accomplishments that Lazowska helped bring about. As the university’s department chair, his effort to recruit leading data scientists included personally reaching out to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who provided $2 million from Amazon to endow two professorships and personally met with researchers. A decade after leading fundraising to build the Paul G. Allen Center for Computer Science & Engineering, he is doing so again to build a new CSE facility that will help double the center’s capacity.
“Our job,” Lazowksa asserts, “is to provide socioeconomic mobility for bright kids in this region.”
Driving opportunities through research remains his passion, as his own studies in high-performance computing, multicomputer processing and big data science have proved. An early technical adviser on the formation of Microsoft Research and a member of two national advisory committees on science and technology policy, he has promoted private and public investment in “engineering things that one day in the future will be used in game-changing products.”
Lazowska believes big data and cloud computing “lie at the heart of 21st century discovery.” He helped found and now leads the UW’s eScience Institute, a cross-campus partnership that helps scholars in fields such as astronomy, biology and sociology take advantage of data analytics to enhance their research. Given the region’s far-reaching cloud expertise, Lazowska says, “This is an area that Seattle has the potential to own.”
Lazowska’s other initiatives include promoting K-12 STEM education and gender diversity in the UW program. He champions the notion that all students should study computer science to cultivate the “computational thinking” skills needed for the new century.
Lazowska marvels at the region’s transformation into a place “with distinctive and innovative activities in the broadest range of areas.” With his trademark enthusiasm for the UW and the local tech sector, this celebrated educator, researcher, adviser and booster has played an important role in that transformation.
Previous Tech Impact Champions
Tech Impact Champions are chosen not only for their achievements in technology but also for championing the region’s broader tech sector. Past inductees in Seattle Business magazine’s Hall of Technology Champions, previously called Lifetime Achievement Award honorees, are:
  2012: John McAdams, former CEO, F5 Networks
  2013: Jeremy Jaech, cofounder, Aldus and Visio, and chair emeritus, the Technology Alliance
  2014: Steve Ballmer, former CEO, Microsoft
  2015: Tom Alberg, cofounder, Madrona Venture Group