PITA Fiscal Year 2009 Projects - Environmental Technologies

Improving Household Awareness of Energy Use and Greenhouse Gas Emissions with Personalized Data Streams

Principal Investigators: Jennifer Mankoff, H. Scott Matthews

With increasing concern for the economy’s impact, energy concerns, and global climate change, firms and individuals are concerned with the impacts of their activities. From an energy or greenhouse gas emissions perspective, the three most important activities are home energy use, transportation, and food purchases.

This project will develop a web-based model to help households understand, track, and reduce their energy use and carbon footprints using emerging systems and data flows. In this project we go beyond the traditional “average input” values used in existing energy and carbon calculators by linking consumer activities with actual data flows from: (1) credit card and bank statements in Quicken-like formats, (2) daily electricity consumption (available on the Internet by Duquesne Light, etc.), and (3) purchases of specific grocery items (using Giant Eagle Advantage card data). By combining these “live” personal data flows, we will enable better estimates for individual decision makers, and also innovate a new domain where social networks of demographically chosen “competitors” are reducing costs, energy use, or carbon emissions by seeing their own impacts in more detail and sharing them with others.

The project will make contributions to the data interface, visualization, and social network aspects of the IT systems needed to make this practical. Going forward, we envision various commercial applications from this type of system as well as the type of data that is fused. We expect that companies participating in services such as this can increase market share and gain customers. Also, the management of expenses, energy use, and carbon emissions is a growing market of relevance. For example firms that sell carbon dioxide offsets (where they mitigate carbon emissions by investing in low-carbon technologies and sell unit shares of the projects to clients) would be interested in tapping both a market of “Green” households as well as a self-selected group of households looking to pay to reduce their footprint.