Chat-bot project to help energy consumers

Icons representing various household electrical appliances, including a cooker, fridge, microwave and kettle.

Researchers from the University of Strathclyde are participating in an EU-funded project aimed at helping energy users cut their power bills.

The Eco-Bot project will see consumers provided with information on how much power their different electrical appliances are using throughout the day.

Information on appliance-level power consumption will then be communicated to the bill-payer in an easy to understand way by a virtual assistant or ‘chatbot’ which will make interactive, personalised and targeted suggestions on how costs can be reduced.

Power usage

The Strathclyde team, led by Dr Lina Stankovic and Dr Vladimir Stankovic of the Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering at the University of Strathclyde, will use its expertise in Non-Intrusive Load Monitoring to identify the unique patterns of power usage of individual appliances within the overall level of electricity being drawn from the mains and recorded by smart meters.

Dr Lina Stankovic said: “Many consumers now have smart meters in their properties which enables them to see how much electricity they are using and how much this costs.

“But they don’t necessarily know how they can efficiently use their appliances to reduce bills and be more energy efficient.

This project aims to help consumers understand how their individual appliances are using power, how this contributes to their electricity bills and make suggestions on how they can cut their energy use and costs.

“Each electrical appliance has a particular energy pattern or signature – for example, a washing machine draws a lot of power on start-up as it heats the water, then uses less during the wash cycle.

“This project will make use of advanced signal processing techniques and algorithms to overcome the challenge of identifying appliance-level energy consumption, multi-factorial behavioural modelling and natural language processing in order to help consumers easily understand energy usage and what they can do to reduce it.”

The approach will be validated, at scale, with domestic and business consumers in three different settings with customers of: Estabanell Energia, a Distribution Systems Operator and retailer in Catalonia; Dexma Sensors, a leading software-as-a-Service Building Energy Management System provider for buildings, commercial and industry sectors across at least 2 out of the 32 countries it serves; and SEnerCon GmbH, a provider of energy services in Germany.

The €2.5m, 39-month project has been funded under the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme under the Behavioural change toward energy efficiency through ICT call.

The project is a collaboration between universities, technology developers and providers in the energy field as well as high tech small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) across Europe.