Brains for buildings, packaged in a smart briefcase

Brains for buildings, packaged in a smart briefcase

Brains for buildings: Building-in-a-Briefcase is an easy-to-assemble kit to help building managers decrease overall energy usage. UC Berkeley researchers, including CITRIS Director Costas Spanos, have created this miniature system, which gathers ambient data via WiFi technology rather than radio waves. The device comes with a plug-in router and eight battery-powered sensors capable of measuring temperature, humidity, ambient visible light, and motion.

Described as “trivially” easy to deploy, Building-in-a-Briefcase makes energy-efficiency more attainable than ever before. The project has been funded by the Republic of Singapore’s National Research Foundation and has already resulted in some 60 briefcases being deployed in government, commercial, and school buildings across Singapore.

Berkeley Engineering, October 2, 2017 – Energy efficiency isn’t just about bulbs and appliances. It’s also about rooms and floors, whole homes and office buildings, managed down to the minute and the degree to minimize energy consumption without sacrificing comfort. A new device from a group of Berkeley engineers, working with electrical engineering and computer sciences (EECS) professor and CITRIS director Costas Spanos, advances that effort by making it easier than ever to monitor building conditions and use.

A sizable industry has evolved to address the systems side of energy efficiency, providing private consultations, energy audits and in-depth “retro-commissionings” to help building owners reduce carbon footprints and monthly bills through technological fixes that are more substantial than a basic lighting upgrade or thermostat adjustment.

Many options already exist for monitoring complex variables within a building — such as temperature, humidity and occupancy on a room-by-room basis — in order to squeeze more efficiency out of lighting, heating and air conditioning systems. Few, however, are accessible to homeowners and building managers who may lack the time or expertise necessary to set up a wireless sensor network or the wherewithal to pay someone else to do it.

But Berkeley’s new Building-in-Briefcase (BiB) system is “trivially” easy to deploy in just about any building environment, say co-developers Kevin Weekly (Ph.D.’14 EECS) and EECS graduate students Ming Jin and Ruoxi Jia. “The idea for BiB is that everything is in the briefcase, including the sensors and the router, and you can take the briefcase wherever you go,” Jin says.

Read the full story in Berkeley Engineering >


The Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS) and the Banatao Institute drive interdisciplinary innovation for social good with faculty researchers and students from four University of California campuses – Berkeley, Davis, Merced, and Santa Cruz – along with public and private partners.

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