Like many colleges across the country, the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) currently has few students on campus due to the impact of COVID-19. Dorit Aviv, Assistant Professor of Architecture, uses all of these empty dormitories to establish an innovative sustainability project based on the Internet of Things (IoT) and blockchain technology.
With the help of Ripple’s UBRI (University of Blockchain Research Initiative), the Aviv team is busy installing sensors that can monitor the energy and environmental performance of each student. The resulting data is then tracked by a blockchain system that allows anyone who signs up to view their own performance statistics via a personalized dashboard, while maintaining their anonymity.
“Students on campus asked us,” How do we know how much energy each of us is using? “, She explains.” There was no way we could really know this data. By building a blockchain network to support IoT sensors, we can now provide the individual user data on energy efficiency that many students want. “
Aviv’s initial interest in blockchain arose from a research project to design more energy-efficient data centers. After discovering the extraordinary energy consumption of crypto mining farms, she wondered if blockchain technology could be used instead to incentivize energy savings.
Your project partner, Professor William Brown, is UPenn’s director of the Center for Environmental Buildings and Design. He was already looking for ways to provide energy monitoring data to individual students, and Aviv’s suggestion to use blockchain technology provided a critical missing piece of the puzzle.
Once back on campus, many UPenn students have the opportunity to know exactly how much energy they are using at any given time and to understand which activities or times are most energy intensive. Dorit believes that making this information available to individuals will encourage them to think about energy use while gaining a competitive advantage for conservation.
“We created a points system that not only shows you how you’ve developed over time,” she says. “You can compare yourself to other users. It’s about making people competitive in terms of their performance. By encouraging them to earn the most points and thus save energy, we can help the university achieve its sustainability goals . “
The value of the project will only increase once information on energy consumption is available. The blockchain network is built to scale and UPenn is already working with another university to expand the use case beyond energy monitoring.
A group of engineering students is keen to apply machine learning to the data to get a rich understanding of UPenn’s energy consumption. Dorit also believes that other departments at the university can use the blockchain network as a platform for a range of experiments and research projects.
“We can see people joining the network with very different incentives or interests,” she concludes. “Someone might want to hook up a robot they built, or a business student might want to create a new model of token distribution on it. How this is going to play out is really exciting. Thanks to UBRI for funding and supporting this project. “
Listen to the latest episode from UBRI’s All About Blockchain podcast to find out more.