According to the International Energy Agency, in 2013 approximately 1.2 billion people did not have access to electricity and more than 2.7 billion people relied on traditional use of solid biomass for cooking. Energy access is a significant global challenge that we are still facing today, especially in rural areas or developing countries. People in these low energy areas often use relatively small loads, such as solar lanterns or cell phones, for lighting and communication purposes. However, they may still have to walk considerable distances to charge such devices. Renewable energy systems are one solution because they don’t have to be connected to a grid and are fairly inexpensive. These systems often consist of solar panels or wind turbines (or other sources of energy), batteries (or other forms of storage) and microinverters (to convert DC output from renewable energy sources to AC). Deploying and using such systems in remote areas is challenging, primarily because of the lack of monitoring and the initial financial investment.
In India, storekeepers provide and sell many services, such as cell phones, food and other products. The purpose of this research is to extend storekeeper services to selling renewable energy. More specifically, we have designed a self-serve pre-paid emissions-free energy delivery system (SPEED) for storekeepers (see figure below). Storekeepers result in the sharing of resources, which makes the overall individual cost lower. Targeting storeowners also results in having an individual accountable for the system. The main goals of SPEED are for the system to be flexible, reliable, user friendly, easy to install and low cost. With these goals in mind, we have developed a system to both monitor renewable energy systems and the ability to charge customers for using the system.
From a shopkeeper’s perspective, all they need to do is to connect to the SPEED system using the WiFi connection on a smartphone. This allows them to add new customers, and to add credits to customers. Customers pay for a certain number of credits and can purchase additional credits from the shopkeeper.
Each SPEED customer is given an RFID tag. The tag is associated with a certain number of credits in their account. To use the charger, the customer taps the SPEED device with their key. If they have enough credits, then one credit is deducted and a ‘success’ sound is generated. Otherwise, the ‘failure’ sound is generated. The shopkeeper needs only to ensure that the success sound is heard before charging is permitted, and to exchange payment for additional credits on a failure.
The SPEED system automatically logs all transactions as well as monitors system state. Logs are sent to a control center for offline analysis and diagnosis.
The scripts for this software can be found here:
SPEED consists of the traditional components of a renewable energy system (solar panels, batteries, microinverters) but also makes use of a Raspberry Pi and a radio frequency identification reader (RFID). The RFID reader is an affordable way to identify customers, as the reader is easy to use and the tags are also cheap. The Pi is used as an inexpensive computer and is essentially the brains of the system. More specifically, the Pi has three main simultaneous functions: monitoring the system, reading the RFID scanner and checking if the user (in this case a storekeeper) wants to add customers, view customer account history or add money to a customer’s account.
The electrical diagram can be found here:
Monitoring the System
The system is monitored by continuously reading current and voltage sensors and storing them into a database, which is stored on a USB. More specifically, we are monitoring the solar panel voltage, and battery discharge and charging currents. After a certain period of time, the data is sent by mail to be analyzed for potential problems, such as a dirty solar panel or a loose wire.
Interacting With Customers
The Pi is continuously monitoring the RFID reader, which the customer uses to identify themselves by tapping their provided RFID tag against the reader. If a customer taps their RFID card against the RFID reader, then one unit of pay will be deducted and the customer can use the electricity. The storekeeper is charging customers based on the number of taps rather than by how much energy each customer uses. However, the storekeeper could choose to make charging a device that requires more energy worth more taps. For example, a solar lantern, which has three times the capacity of a phone, could require three taps to charge while a smart phone will only require one tap to charge.
A buzzer and LEDs are used to give feedback to customers. There are different pitched sounds and different LED colours that correspond to specific user situations. For example, if the user doesn’t have enough money to charge, a “bad” sounding buzz will happen and a red light will flash.
Interacting With The Storekeeper
The newer versions of the Pi have built in wifi. As a result, the storekeeper user interface is built off of Python scripts that use HTML and CGI. The front end of the interface consists of basic website that is hosted on the Pi. The storekeeper interacts with the system by connecting their smartphone to the Pi’s wifi hotspot, and using the website interface. The back end of the interface communicates with the RFID reader and a MySQL database. As already mentioned, the functions of the website are to: add users to the database, view account history, and add payments to an account. Below is a user manual for the storekeeper:
Conclusion/Where We’re at Now
The main purpose of SPEED is to help increase energy access in developing or rural areas. SPEED does this by encouraging investment in renewable energy systems by providing a method for storekeepers to obtain a fast return on their investment. By monitoring the state of the system, SPEED also decreases the investment risk. We are currently deploying SPEED in India.
Karlsruhe Institute of Technology
Date: Tuesday, August 9, 2016 at 1 pm.
Location: DC 1331
Title: Research Activities of the KIT Building Science Group- An Overview
Bio: Prof. Andreas Wagner studied mechanical engineering at the University of Karlsruhe from 1979 to 1987, and was a researcher at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems in Freiburg from 1987 to 1995. Since then he has been a professor for building physics and technical building services. His research is on building performance analysis, energy-efficient buildings, and comfort/occupant behavior. He was the Dean of the Faculty of Architecture from 2000 to 2004, and from 2012 to 2015, he was a spokesperson for “efficient energy use in buildings” at the KIT Energy Centre.
Advanced Computing Research Centre
The University of Sheffield
Date: Friday, July 8, 2016 at 2 pm.
Location: DC 2585
Title: Agent-Based Modelling – Applications in Research and Industry
Abstract: Agent-based modelling in the context of complex systems has advanced greatly in recent years – particularly following new developments in computer technology and the development of powerful software platforms. We describe the FLAME ABM framework which is implemented in both HPC and GPU technologies. Examples of major applications include molecular systems biology, tissue engineering, and economic systems research. Industrial applications include crowd management in transport hubs and retail centres as well as hospital emergency departments.
Biography: Prof. Holcombe is Director of the Advanced Computing Research Centre, an industry-facing R and D institute specializing in large scale simulation at the University of Sheffield. He is an experienced academic with research interests in agent-based modelling of complex Systems in biology, medicine and economics. He is also the founding director of epiGenesys Plc. His areas of research include large-scale modelling and simulation, computational biology, computational economics, and the FLAME agent-based modelling framework.
Queen Mary University of London
Date: Friday, November 20, 2015 at 1.30 pm.
Location: DC 1304
Title: Personal Data, Thinking Inside the Box
Videos: Part 1 (4GB), Part 2 (2.4GB)
Abstract: We are in a ‘personal data gold rush’ driven by advertising being the primary revenue source for most online companies. These companies accumulate extensive personal data about individuals with minimal concern for us, the subjects of this process. There is a critical need to provide technologies that enable alternative practices, so that individuals can participate in the collection, management and consumption of their personal data. However, personal data from individuals, and their (IoT) devices can be useful for a number of purposes such as personalised services or health monitoring. In this talk I discuss the Databox, a personal networked device (and associated
services) that collates and mediates access to personal data, allowing us to recover control of our online lives. We hope the Databox is a first step to re-balancing power between us, the data subjects, and the corporations that collect and use our data.
Biography: Hamed is a lecturer in Digital Media at EECS School in Queen Mary University of London and a Research Scientist at Qatar Computing Research Institute. He is interested in Networked Systems & Social Computing. He enjoys designing and building systems that enable better use of our digital footprint, while respecting users’ privacy. He is also broadly interested in sensing applications and Human-Data Interaction. He is currently serving as the Information Services Director for the ACM SIGCOMM Executive Committee.He studied for BEng/MSc/PhD at University College London and the University of Cambridge. He was a postdoctoral researcher at Max Planck Institute for Software Systems in Germany, and a postdoctoral research fellow at Department of Pharmacology, University of Cambridge and The Royal Veterinary College, University of London. He has spent time working and collaborating with Intel Research, Microsoft Research, AT&T Research, Telefonica, and Sony Europe. When not in the office, he prefers to be on a ski slope or in a kayak.
This may be of interest.
From: Barath Raghavan [mailto:barath@ICSI.Berkeley.EDU]
Sent: December 16, 2015 8:57 PM
To: Srinivasan Keshav
Subject: Re: limits workshop
I wanted to follow up with you and see if you (and/or your students) might have an interest in sending a paper to next year’s LIMITS workshop. We were quite encouraged by the first workshop — the community that’s coming together is quite diverse and focused on real sustainability (and related) challenges in a way that I think is quite exciting. You can take a look at the first workshop’s webpage and the page for our upcoming workshop here:
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