Kan leads $1.5M grant to develop energy-conserving HVAC system

By: Edwin Kan

System could reduce energy usage by up to 30% using people-counting technology.

Edwin Kan

Edwin Kan, professor of electrical and computer engineering, is leading a $1.5 million grant to develop a people counting technology in residential and commercial buildings as an input to energy-conserving HVAC systems.

The grant is from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E).

The research team will develop a system using a combination of “active” radio-frequency identification readers and “passive” tags. Instead of requiring occupants to wear tags, the tags as coordinated landmarks will be distributed around a room to enable accurate people counting by sensing perturbations in radio waves traveling through the space. The distributed tags will operate without need for a power source or maintenance, and are less than 10 cents apiece. Extraction of body traits and algorithms by advanced imaging can further improve the accuracy and reliability of people counting in a complex room layout.

The interdisciplinary research team also includes Huiju Park of Fiber Science and Apparel Design, David Hysell of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, and Rana Zadeh of Design and Environmental Analysis, all of whom are at Cornell, as well as Jaya Mukhopadh of Montana State University's Department of Architecture.

Cornell received the competitive award from ARPA-E’s Saving Energy Nationwide in Structures with Occupancy Recognition (SENSOR) program, which supports innovative and highly accurate presence sensors and occupant counters that optimize heating, cooling, and ventilation (HVAC) of buildings while reducing cost and slashing energy use. SENSOR project teams can take advantage of existing low cost wireless and electronic communication technologies and could reduce HVAC energy usage by 30 percent while simultaneously addressing user requirements for cost, comfort, privacy and usability.

Additional information about Kan's research can be found on his Kan group website.

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