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Home :: 2012 :: November

power-in-numbers-01They may be small but they have big appetites, devouring energy 24/7, even when they’re not in use. They’re set-top boxes, those little devices that receive TV satellite and cable signals. And they’re priority number one for the California Plug Load Research Center (CalPlug) housed at Calit2.

CalPlug’s second full-day set-top box workshop held last week (the first took place in February) brought together 75 academics, manufacturers, service providers, utility and public agency representatives, and students, who brainstormed energy-saving approaches to device usage. The workshop also touched on other applications for the technology, including home energy-management, security and telemedicine systems.

From power consumption trends and sleep modes to incentive programs and consumer education, attendees spent the day discussing options, sharing ideas and asking questions of each other.

CalPlug is committed to several short-term goals, including characterizing energy consumption in various operational settings, and enabling set-top boxes to hibernate when they’re not in use, waking up within five seconds. “This workshop went a long way toward advancing our goals,” CalPlug Technical Manager Arthur Zhang said. “It’s really helpful to get input from those with experience in different sectors of the industry.”

Welcoming remarks from Calit2 Irvine Director G.P. Li were followed by plenary sessions featuring panels of industry, government and academic experts.

Despite the absence of several East-Coast presenters and participants due to Hurricane Sandy, “the energy level and engagement of stakeholders was very high,” Zhang said.

power-in-numbers-02The sessions addressed such issues as: Are new technologies, such as “system-on-a-chip,” making set-top boxes more efficient? How can cutting-edge power management technology best be integrated with consumer usage behaviors? What’s the best way to stimulate consumer awareness of incentive programs? Why is it important to establish a set of common terms and labels that apply to energy savings?

Participants then broke into working groups, summarizing their ideas and compiling reports on tangible action items.

“It was extremely productive,” Zhang said. He added that attendees “gave us very encouraging comments,” including two who said CalPlug’s approach “really grasped the most critical aspect of the problem at hand: energy savings and consumer tradeoffs.”

“It was a very successful day,” said Li. “There was a lot of give-and-take from all the participants. I think we will see some productive collaborations and a great deal of progress on several fronts.”

The workshop ended with working demonstrations in the CalPlug Center. Participants viewed the Wall of Power, a simulated living room in which everyday entertainment and household devices teach consumers about real-time energy consumption.

Other demos included the 1kWhr Challenge, the prototyping project room, advances in sleep-mode technology, and a telemedicine application called “Patient Connect,” which uses set-top box protocols to connect hospitalized children with their classrooms.

“Workshops like these are essential to CalPlug’s mission,” Li said. “They help us connect with multiple stakeholders, all of whom bring unique perspectives and years of expertise to our efforts.”

-Anna Lynn Spitzer, 11.07.12

power-of-networking-01Visitors to the fourth floor CalPlug Center in the Calit2 Building are greeted by the “Wall of Power” – a living room simulation equipped with everyday entertainment and household devices that plug into outlets and consume energy. The Wall has become a popular educational tool for consumers to power on and off devices in order to understand real-time usage and costs.

So popular, that a CalPlug research team developed a travel-sized version to take on the road. Its first stop: The 2012 Emerging Technologies Summit hosted by Southern California Edison.

“It’s an effective public awareness tool that really gets to the heart of everyday energy consumption behavior,” says Arthur Zhang, CalPlug technical manager. “It empowers people to take an active role in energy-efficiency solutions.”

Zhang, along with several undergraduate students who helped develop the application, set-up a display booth at the ET Summit in mid-October showcasing CalPlug’s efforts. The Summit is a biennial event that draws nearly 500 attendees nationwide from all sectors of government and industry who are actively involved in and/or seeking partners for collaborative energy efficiency projects.

“It was a great way to make introductions and heighten CalPlug’s visibility,” explains Stuart Ross, who guides the center’s research development and participated in the exhibition. “We had quite a number of people visit the booth, exchange contact information and suggest other parties who would want to know more about us. It was quality networking.”

power-of-networking-02The official theme of the 2012 ET Summit was “Leading the Way to an Energy Efficient Future” with an emphasis on collaboration. In addition to the exhibition, attendees got in-depth information from presentations and panel discussion on technologies poised to make a dramatic impact on society.

CalPlug was also represented by Director G.P. Li in a roundtable session on utility programs and new technology development. Li explained to the audience the importance for CalPlug’s innovation to extend beyond research labs and into partnerships with industry, utilities, service providers, advocacy groups and policymakers.

“By bridging industry and organizational boundaries, CalPlug serves as neutral ground for multilateral conversations and negotiations, and assists in developing future efficiency standards and incentives for manufacturers and retailers,” said Li.

With funding support from the California Energy Commission, industry and other sources, CalPlug focuses on energy efficiency solutions, efficiency evaluations of consumer electronics, standards development, education and public outreach, and user-behavior studies. The Center was established at UC Irvine in the fall of 2011.

-Shellie Nazarenus, 11.01.12