Fast Company

New Ways to Measure Energy Use

Intelligent systems can now monitor buildings, traffic, even bodies of water.

Taking the LEED Agilewaves' sensors can definitively measure the benefits of such building features as green roofs, solar panels, and insulated windows -- and let you view the data on your mobile device. If adopted widely, such sensors could change the definition of a green building, from the current LEED ratings awarded on plans alone to ones based on actual performance.

Grid Unlock A product called AEMPFAST (or aim-fast) from Optimal Technologies enables energy companies to monitor and correct inefficiencies in the power grid to contain blackouts and cut spending on expensive backup energy at peak times. The efficiency frees up 5% to 6% additional capacity.

New Ways to Measure Energy Use
infographic by Jason Lee

Data Stream An array of tools, including "autonomous underwater vehicles" (aka robot fish) and pipeline and buoy sensors, can measure water conditions and flow levels in rivers. IBM's Great Rivers project uses such data to create 3-D models of the impact of agriculture and development on watersheds.

Traffic Signals Congestion pricing is a controversial but effective way to manage traffic. The system uses lasers, cameras, and other whizbang tech to identify your car when it's passing a key intersection and to charge the account associated with your license plate. An IBM pilot project in Stockholm reduced car traffic in the city by 25% and emissions by 8% to 14%.

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