Monthly Archives: March 2009

Spring break on Molokai

Last week was spring break and I went to Molokai on Friday. Most of the rest of my time was spent on my algorithms assignment, which is still ongoing. The assignment is due a week from today, so that constrains how much more of my time it can take. 🙂

Molokai was wonderful. Obviously it’s very rural, but it’s easy to get around. We went from the central south to north, and from the east end to the west end. Picking up hot Molokai bread from Kanemitsu Bakery was neat. The trip wasn’t cheap, but I’d go back if the opportunity arose.

Planned items from last week:

  • Send Dave references I discussed at the submetering meeting
    • done
  • Start justification document
    • not done
  • Read a paper from revised reading list
    • not done

Other accomplishments this week:

  • Did some initial research on the feasibility of counting the number of viewers of a public display using a web cam
  • Found out that at the Tech Expo that AVCO sells custom anti-vandalism enclosures for ~$2K

Hours worked: 8 (target: 30 hr)

Plans for coming week:

  • Start justification document
  • Read a paper from revised reading list

Pointers to work products:

  • N/A

Cool links:

  • Nothing this week.
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Submetering Meeting Results

The big progress from last week is the submetering meeting, which went very well. Mahalo to Dave, Jeremy, and Philip for attending. It appears we’re all on the same page, so now it’s just a matter of figuring out the sequence of treatments for the different rounds of the competition. I’ll be working on a written proposal for why I think a community website should be one of the early treatments. However, this week is spring break, and I have an algorithms assignment due soon so my dissertation progress this week will be limited.

Planned items from last week:

  • Revise presentation on submetering research
    • done
  • Hold meeting on submetering research ideas
    • done
  • Start writing proposal around submetering research
    • not done
  • Review reading list, looking for items relevant to new research focus
    • done, got a list of papers around electricity conservation
  • Finish meter download script
    • done
  • Download historical meter data
    • done, now have all the meter data on disk (except for the meters that don’t yet have a full month of data)

Other accomplishments this week:

  • Played around with the demo of Balsalmiq Mockups. Looks pretty nice, but $79 is steep for students.

Hours worked: 25 (target: 30 hr)

Plans for coming week:

  • Send Dave references I discussed at the submetering meeting
  • Start justification document
  • Read a paper from revised reading list

Pointers to work products:

  • Submetering presentation sent via email

Cool links:

  • This blog post by Clay Shirky is a great description of the situation newspapers are facing. The goal should be “save reporting” not save the newspapers.

Portfolio submitted, Saunders submetering

Last week I finally finished my research portfolio and submitted it to the graduate chair. It will probably be a while before I hear back about it (the faculty is supposed to get the portfolio 2 weeks before the meeting wherein it is discussed). I also spent some time thinking about a research plan for my dissertation using the electrical submetering system installed at Saunders Hall. I’m organizing a meeting this week with Philip and Sustainable Saunders folks to discuss my ideas and find out what people had planned.

Based on the feedback from the meeting, I’ll start work on the experimental portions of my proposal.

Planned items from last week:

  • Finish final pass through lit review
    • done
  • Backport lit review changes to 09-05 tech report
    • done
  • Submit research portfolio to grad chair
    • done!
  • Develop hypothesis and research questions for Saunders metering idea
    • done

Other accomplishments this week:

  • Made PowerPoint presentation on ideas for Saunders submetering research
  • Called meeting on submetering research for this week
  • Volunteered at Symposium on Applied Computing (SAC) 2009 conference
  • Read Software ICU paper, provided comments
  • Wrote up requirements for Saunders meter data collation project
  • Wrote script to download meter data from Building Manager Online

Hours worked: 25 (target: 30 hr)

Plans for coming week:

  • Revise presentation on submetering research
  • Hold meeting on submetering research ideas
  • Start writing proposal around submetering research
  • Review reading list, looking for items relevant to new research focus
  • Finish meter download script
  • Download historical meter data

Pointers to work products:

Cool links:

  • Google Voice, Google product du jour. Combine all your phone numbers under one master number, have your voicemail transcribed to text, manage text messages like email messages, conference calling, low cost international calling.

Editing lit review and thinking about Saunders metering

I spent most of my time this week incorporating Yuka’s extensive edits into the related work chapter. I’m in the process of making a final pass through the document, at which point it will be ready to be attached to my research portfolio, which I can submit to the department for approval. Hopefully that will allow me to jump through the final hoop before I can submit my proposal (other than, you know, having a finished proposal).

I’ve also been thinking about what kind of research I could do around the floor-by-floor electrical metering in Saunders Hall. From the papers I’ve read, there is good reason to believe that providing computer support to the people trying to reduce energy usage. Specifically, providing people with a community area where they can share ideas, news, and support one another is likely to increase the amount of energy they can save.

There are 6 floors being metered, which I was thinking could break down into 3 subject groups running on pairs of floors: control, real-time feedback displays, and feedback displays coupled with a focused community website. The expected results would be 5-15% reduction from the floors with real-time feedback displays, with further reductions on the floors participating in the community website. So the hypothesis is that adding an online community focused on energy reduction to a real-time feedback display can increase the rate of energy savings.

I’m also working on finding out what will be happening with the Saunders Hall energy saving competitions that are planned. If they involve installing feedback displays on each floor, then the experimental design above would need to be modified.

Planned items from last week:

  • Incorporate Yuka’s edits into literature review
    • done
  • Make final pass through lit review
    • in progress
  • Submit research portfolio to grad chair
    • not done
  • Work on hypothesis and research questions for Saunders metering idea
    • in progress

Other accomplishments this week:

  • Helped in the first phase of installing solar panels on the roof of Saunders Hall

Hours worked: 20 (target: 30 hr)

Plans for coming week:

  • Finish final pass through lit review
  • Backport lit review changes to 09-05 tech report
  • Submit research portfolio to grad chair
  • Develop hypothesis and research questions for Saunders metering idea

Pointers to work products:

Cool links:

  • Google Quick Search Box is a tool to provide a quick way to perform a Google search, launch an application, play a song, etc. It looks pretty cool, but is definitely beta quality.

Minimal progress

The past week I spent essentially all my cycles on part I of my second Algorithms assignment (presentation of the results is today). Unfortunately, this left little time to work on my dissertation. Based on my discussion last week with Philip, I need to get concrete about what my hypothesis is and what research questions I am trying to address. In parallel, I need to create more detailed use cases and start mocking up the user interface.

I’m now seriously considering narrowing my focus from sensors that try to track the majority of a person’s carbon outputs, to just one area. This would significantly reduce the amount of “plumbing” effort required to get to the point where I could do research. One idea I am pursuing is using the floor-by-floor metering project underway at Saunders Hall as the experimental regime. Based on prior research, we can expect that making people aware of their electricity usage will lead to 5-15% reductions in usage, and competitions can reduce that even further (at least for the duration of the competition). However, this model treats the actual energy reduction behaviors as a black box: we give people feedback on their usage, and they “do stuff” that ends up reducing their usage. I think there is a lot of opportunity to provide support to the users to help them maximize their energy reductions, and that support can be customized to a micro-environment such as a floor of a building.

Planned items from last week:

  • Work on detailed scenario for vision document
    • not done
  • Incorporate Yuka’s edits into literature review
    • got edits back from Yuka, just started incorporating them

Other accomplishments this week:

  • Starting looking into meter data collection at Saunders to support historical baseline data for contest
  • PET research plan incorporated into 2 proposals for the UH Sustainability Institute grant

Hours worked: < 5 (target: 30 hr)

Plans for coming week:

  • Incorporate Yuka’s edits into literature review
  • Make final pass through lit review
  • Submit research portfolio to grad chair
  • Work on hypothesis and research questions for Saunders metering idea

Pointers to work products:

  • N/A

Cool links:

  • None