An app developed by a UNSW School of Built Environment researcher that visualises indoor thermal comfort, household energy and water consumption has won a Smart Cities Award.  

The Committee for Sydney Smart City Awards 2019 has given the award to the app, developed by Dr Anir Upadhyay with the CRC for Low Carbon Living, in the category Best Data as an Enabler Initiative. The awards celebrate projects and partnerships that address the fundamental challenges faced by cities, governments, communities, industry and the ICT sector in Sydney. They provide an opportunity for organisations to profile how they have been contributing to a more data-driven and responsive Greater Sydney.

VIHEW uses real-time data collected through smart home devices and sensors to show indoor thermal environmental conditions and utility consumption patterns. 

“Real-time data is collected using the ‘internet of things’ meters and sensors, state-of-the-art cloud computing technology and delivers user-friendly information through an interactive dashboard,” says Dr Upadhyay.

“VIHEW, which is currently being used in 20 households, displays energy consumption of different services – such as lighting, plug loads, air conditioning, water heating and pool pump – and solar energy generation, [while] encouraging households to optimise energy consumption by using energy-efficient appliances or through behavioural changes.”

The Data as an Enabler Initiative category is awarded to a platform, initiative, project or strategy that demonstrates how it has created new markets, opportunities or behaviour change through data use.

“The platform can [potentially] be used by thousands of houses to receive the personalised service through a password-protected unique user identity.” 

The CRC for Low Carbon Living CEO Professor Deo Prasad has VIHEW installed in his own energy-efficient home.

“A significant innovation of VIHEW is its personalised approach, presenting indoor thermal comfort conditions via house floor plans, and using simple graphics to illustrate indoor thermal comfort conditions which are cross-referenced with air-conditioning energy consumption to highlight issues associated with the building envelope or a household’s thermal preference,” Professor Prasad says.

“You can also use the tool remotely and adjust the comfort of your home to prepare for your arrival and shut down appliances if you have forgotten to do so when you left the house.” 

The tool also provides energy performance and total greenhouse gas emissions of buildings post-occupancy and compares it with benchmark data such as BASIX in NSW. The information generated could inform government policy and influence the development of a targeted energy efficiency program.

Utility companies may also benefit from the household scale energy/water demand and water leakages information.

“We are planning to commercialise the tool in the near future, so being nominated for this award is a great step towards this goal,” Dr Upadhyay says. 

View the Smart City Award 2019 winners.