A Powerful Idea

Smart Meters That Could Save Energy and Money

Sami RollinsSami Rollins (left), associate professor of computer science, and graduate research assistant Lazeeb Choudhury MS ’12 (right) can monitor and control the energy consumption of individual appliances in their research laboratory on the Internet or with a smartphone app. Their work is part of an innovative smart meter system they helped develop.

What happens if you’re in San Francisco, but your apartment’s electric heater is running full blast in New York? USF’s Sami Rollins, an associate professor of computer science, has the answer.

Working with colleagues at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Rollins is developing a system that not only lets you operate your home’s electrical appliances from anywhere in the world, but also monitors how much energy each one uses—all online or on your smartphone.

“The system is designed to provide homeowners with more information so that they can better manage their energy efficiency,” Rollins said.

Two separate technologies make this possible: a smart meter that uses a wireless home network to monitor individual appliances (today’s meters measure only total energy consumption) and a smartphone app that lets users turn appliances on and off remotely. The meter even offers suggestions about how to better manage your home energy consumption.

With a $400,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, Rollins’ team is now testing the system in one San Francisco home and five others in northwest Arkansas. USF students are helping with the research.

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