The interdisciplinary team of students is looking to better visualize energy usage for the Duke Smart Home – s program designed to encourage students from different academic disciplines “to form teams and explore smart ways to use technology in the home.” Designed and managed by the Pratt School of Engineering and completed in 2007, Duke’s Smart Home currently generates a lot of data about its energy usage, but, say the students, “no one understands what it means – yet.”

For example, says Sujay Garlanka, a junior studying electrical and computer engineering, the Smart Home has e-gauges installed that show how much energy the appliances are consuming. The e-gauges constantly push data to the internet via an application programming interface (API), but the current dashboard’s visualization is unintuitive.

The students are using a virtual machine and a Python script to put the data in their own database, and are experimenting with Tableau data visualization software to design an interface that is easy to follow.

“If we have all this data in our database, we can visualize it however we want,” says Garlanka. Currently the team – led by Rahul Sengottuvelu, a sophomore in electrical and computer engineering – is mainly trying to understand what the data can show and determine what Smart Home residents would be interesting in seeing.

“What questions are interesting to ask the data?”, says Camilla Vargas, a senior majoring in visual studies who is writing her thesis on the Smart Home. “Are there particular patterns that are interesting … we don’t really know that.”

According to Vargas, the Smart Home has evolved since it was first built, starting off as an engineering-focused construction project and then becoming a makerspace once it was complete. But with the opening of the Innovation Co-Lab creativity incubator and Engineering Design Pod design and learning lab, she says, the Smart Home “must find its identity again,” adding “data might be the next hub.”

Related articles:
How to make a home thermostat ‘smart’
Smart home market to exceed $14B in 2017
Creating smarter homes for smart consumers

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