The way forward to seamless energy efficiency everywhere

This week’s energy seminar was from Imperial alumnus Dr Alex Bak, who has co-founded LightFi. His talk was on his company’s plan for seamless, easy-to-install retrofit lighting automation. He has written us this post to complement the talk.

Energy efficiency is a key component in delivering on emissions reduction targets. On the 10th November 2016 the EU announced that it is putting energy efficiency first, proposing a 30% mandatory target by 2030. It is thought to be the simplest intervention to implement, if only we were to change our habits – no technology required. Then why do we still see organisations struggling with energy efficiency. Why, for example, are the lights on in many office buildings at night?

Office buildings at night with the lights on

Removing or changing habits is notoriously difficult, especially if your surroundings have natural barriers. Take for example an open plan office – you’re about to leave for the night, you remember to think about turning off the lights, you look around, can’t see anyone… OK, but wait, what if someone’s sleeping at their desk, or have just popped out to the loo – you’d rather not risk leaving anyone in the dark, so the lights stay on. Not turning off lights in offices when they are empty costs the EU ~€1.5bn annually [PDF].

Euro notes

Heating at home is another example – it’s easy to forget to turn off the heating when you’re rushing our the front door, and the thermostat is often out of sight and out of mind (in the living room or bedroom). If we could just save 10% through changing our behaviour at home and at work, we would collectively save ~€23bn and about 70 million tonnes of CO2e in the EU every year.

There is a fast growing  industry offering technological solutions to remove the need for us to make a behavioural change by automating things. Mainly these solutions take the form of various motion sensors and timers. Motion sensors are great for corridors and warehouses, but are short range and expensive to install because it requires rewiring the infrastructure, especially in offices where this creates the infamous landlord-tenant barrier. Timers work to a fixed schedule and don’t capture the dynamics of human spontaneity.

How lightfi works

We at LightFi think there is now room for improvement. Our innovation focuses on easy-to-implement energy efficiency solution that uses WiFi to detect mobile devices and automates the control. At its core, LightFi is a presence sensing device for automation that is easy-to-install, has a long range (50m, essentially the range of your WiFi), and needs no complex configuration or setup. For the commercial sector LightFi is not only cheaper but also removes the landlord-tenant barrier because there is no need to change or re-wire the infrastructure. With ubiquitous WiFi and the future promising a move to wearable technology, people and phones will be more tethered than ever. LightFi will be a better fit for purpose as it seamlessly detects your presence in the home – the best solution is the one that you don’t have to think about.

LightFi can be simply used as an on / off switch by detecting presence in the home, office or as a last-man-out switch in retail. Also by reporting occupancy level in a room it can be used to control the intensity of HVAC systems, or even space utilisation (rent is up to ten times more expensive than energy uses). We are starting by turning off lights.

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