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Why New Daedalus?

Daedalus was the mythical great architect and artificer of the classical world. Today, embedded intelligence is enabling the most profound changes in the way we create and use buildings since his day.

Building Intelligence meets the Intelligent Building. The Intelligent Building negotiates with the Intelligent Grid. How will this transform how we interact with the physical world?

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It’s all too cheap!

Even with today’s rising energy costs, most things do not cost very much. This is a good thing. Food, as a percentage of income, is still at historic lows. In real dollars, gasoline is just where it was at the birth of the modern car in 1908. For most people, switching to a more fuel efficient car will not pay back the initial capital outlay in the next five years. Local energy generation just doesn’t pay back its installation cost quickly enough.

A penny saved may be a penny earned, but today, everyone leaves their pennies by the cash register. Gas prices do not come down because no one wants to make a left turn against traffic to get a better deal. (See also many articles on the front page of Knowledge Problem this week. The New York Times recently indicated that a load in the washing machine might cost $0.53. Who is going to personally manage that? Who is going to miss their $4 coffee on the way to work to reset when the dishwasher runs for this type of gain?

Life cycle does more than lifestyle to determine energy usage. Homes with small children have different energy profiles than empty nesters. Life-cycle trumps life style in energy use except in the most extreme cases. Extreme energy savings are not ever going to be a mass phenomenon. People would rather get to the beach an hour earlier, and get the complaining kids out of the car and in bed on time than they would drive for greater mileage on the trip. These facts are not likely to change.

Well, if we are not going to manage our devices, our systems, and our energy, who will? There are only two answers: someone else and the systems themselves.

Few people want someone else to manage their power, because few people want to relinquish autonomy over their home to someone else. Service is a possibility here. Services like Sensus could remotely monitor my heating and cooling for peak performance, and let me know when and what maintenance is needed. If I approve it, they could even schedule the maintenance themselves, and verify post-repair performance before I pay for it.

This leaves the devices managing themselves. There are a lot of devices, with a lot of features. If we are going to let these devices manage themselves, they need an economic interface, too.

I could ask my dishwasher to run itself, and manage its own budget for the month. I could also set service standards that the dishes always be clean before dinner the next day. This leads to a relatively simple and consistent user interface.

I could tell my solar panel to sell to the grid whenever the price is above a certain amount, and to store any excess energy. The grid might consistently outbid the dishwasher—and that’s OK. If so, the dishwasher would still run only at night.

I could tell my whole-house storage system to buy power at any price until it has four hours on hand. Thereafter it might buy whenever energy is below a target price. I could even let it take bids from the household systems and devices, or from the neighbor. This system would, of course, need to charge an appropriate mark-up based upon its inefficiency of storage.

If we develop the right sort of abstract business interface between the power grid and our buildings, it can also be used between buildings, or within buildings. Most throw-away cell phones have more computing power than it took to go to the moon. Surely, our embedded systems can do a little day trading…

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Reader Comments (1)

I'm a parent that would drive to Florida and want to get there as soon as possible, and worked for a utility that believed nuclear power would be too cheap to meter. We have come along way and the information age that has permeated every aspect of our lives and those of my grown children who are FACEBOOK and Iphone hip are looking for the automation that provides them with the services you suggest. They also look to their parents for guidance in some cases and in others they want the technology to look after their parents as they are traveling around the world. Seeing that MOM is safe and playing bingo with her friends over the Digital camera Internet site may give us some wisdom to create the value services for Intelligent Building to SMART Grid

August 25, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Katz

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