Energy Savings in Buildings Based on Image Depth Sensors for Human Activity Recognition
A smart city is a city that binds together technology, society, and government to enable the existence of a smart economy, smart mobility, smart environment, smart living, smart people, and smart governance in order to reduce the environmental impact of cities and improve life quality. The first step to achieve a fully connected smart city is to start with smaller modules such as smart homes and smart buildings with energy management systems. Buildings are responsible for a third of the total energy consumption; moreover, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems account for more than half of the residential energy consumption in the United States. Even though connected thermostats are widely available, they are not used as intended since most people do not have the expertise to control this device to reduce energy consumption. It is commonly set according to their thermal comfort needs; therefore, unnecessary energy consumption is often caused by wasteful behaviors and the estimated energy saving is not reached. Most studies in the thermal comfort domain to date have relied on simple activity diaries to estimate metabolic rate and fixed values of clothing parameters for strategies to set the connected thermostat’s setpoints because of the difficulty in tracking those variables. Therefore, this paper proposes a strategy to save energy by dynamically changing the setpoint of a connected thermostat by human activity recognition based on computer vision preserving the occupant’s thermal comfort. With the use of a depth sensor in conjunction with an RGB (Red–Green–Blue) camera, a methodology is proposed to eliminate the most common challenges in computer vision: background clutter, partial occlusion, changes in scale, viewpoint, lighting, and appearance on human detection. Moreover, a Recurrent Neural Network (RNN) is implemented for human activity recognition (HAR) because of its data’s sequential characteristics, in combination with physiological parameters identification to estimate a dynamic metabolic rate. Finally, a strategy for dynamic setpoints based on the metabolic rate, predicted mean vote (PMV) parameter and the air temperature is simulated using EnergyPlus™ to evaluate the energy consumption in comparison with the expected energy consumption with fixed value setpoints. This work contributes with a strategy to reduce energy consumption up to 15% in buildings with connected thermostats from the successful implementation of the proposed method.