Open "What if..." Challenge

Connecting the Right Data at the Right Time to Improve Residential Building Performance

Today is the age of information and big data. It is also the age of the "Internet of Things" (IoT) and smart devices. More homeowners are purchasing web-connected household appliances and systems. These smart machines produce a lot of data about energy use, maintenance alerts, and service needs. However, the effective use of these data to motivate energy savings actions by homeowners remains a challenge. Specific complexities include: device connectivity, data compatibility, data access rights, understanding data formatting and content, and ways to translate data insights into action. Additionally, there are issues in knowing what is the right data to use and for what purpose, how and when to deliver it and to whom, and what information would make homeowners take action.



The Challenge

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL)  is seeking your input on how we can tackle connecting behavioral motivations with increasingly accessible energy use data. Consider and propose your ideas on how machine learning can be applied to affect homeowner behavior.  BTO and ORNL are seeking solutions that may address either individual households, and/or potentially also leverage data for large samples of similar households. The market could benefit from more exploration of solutions that allow individuals to benchmark against similar homes, with a greater examination of data collection processes, storage, and visualization approaches. The objective of this JUMP into STEM Challenge is to identify and design approaches to influence homeowner decisions to optimize their energy use. Responses should consider one or more of the following:

  • How to effectively baseline the home's or specific end-use appliance's energy use
  • Experimental models to test, monitor, and influence energy use behaviors
  • Simplified data visualization and data schema to capture and display to motivate action

The Award

Idea submitters with the winning responses will be invited to collaborate on a JUMP into STEM webinar to present on their idea and opportunities for high performing buildings and sustainable communities. The winners and the webinar will be promoted on social media. The best ideas may also be considered for future R&D collaboration with ORNL.

How it Works

Ideas can be up to 1,500 words and may be attached as a PDF in the JUMP into STEM response form. Winning submissions should be thoughtful, well-articulated, innovative and/or unique.  The write-up should describe how the energy savings will be realized (or quantified) from the future implementation of the idea.  

Everyone, including students, professors, individuals, innovators, entrepreneurs, or others are invited to contribute ideas, vote, or comment on the "What if" Challenges. See the Terms and Conditions for eligibility requirements. A few guidelines to keep in mind:

  • All are welcome: All community members are welcome and encouraged to participate in the dialogue.
  • Be respectful: Please, no remarks that are off topic or offensive.
  • No solicitation: Please, no promotions or endorsements for specific commercial services or products.
  • Response time: Where applicable, a JUMP team member will respond to process and program related questions within 2 business days.

Active "What if" Challenges will be open for idea submission, voting, and commenting for a minimum of 8 weeks. A panel of judges will select the Finalist Awards based on the idea's potential impact on reducing energy consumption in buildings as well as a review of how unique, innovative, well-articulated and thoughtful the idea submission is. 

One of the unique advantages of the JUMP crowdsourcing community is that it engages users in evaluating and reviewing the ideas through the "voting" and "comment" functions. The ORNL, DOE, and University Partners use this information to gauge interest in the topic and idea submission. A leading number of votes or comments, however, does not guarantee advancement, but is one indicator in the judging phase of considering ideas for Finalist Awards.

For More Information

Be sure to check out the JUMP into STEM "What if" webinar series – a creative virtual seminar forum where you can hear more from industry on activities to motivate homeowner behavior.

Webinar 1: Using Data to Characterize a Home's Energy Use

Panelists: Maddy Salzman, USDOE and Sandy Adomatis, Adomatis Appraisal Services
Date: August 28, 2018, 1 to 2pm ET


Webinar 2: Demographics to Understand our Energy Users 

Panelists: Suzanne Shelton, The Shelton Group and Elizabeth Palchak, Vermont Energy Investment Corp
Date: September 5, 2018, 2 to 3pm ET


Webinar 3:  Beta Tests and Data Analytics to Identify Key Motivators, with panelists Omar Issac Asensio, Georgia Tech and Tom Koby, Emerson Control Technologies.

Date: September 26th, 2018 2pm to 3pm ET