Distributed AI and Sustainable Design: Smart Products for the Smart Grid


Alice M. Agogino

Roscoe and Elizabeth Hughes Professor of Mechanical Engineering
University of California at Berkeley


Every electronic appliance has the potential now to be a node in the Smart Grid, yet most of these appliances and the built environments that house them are designed as independent systems. What if we equipped these appliances and their environments with the ability to communicate, sense and optimize their energy efficiency and use as a system? AI techniques are particularly suited for dealing with the challenges of enabling these Smart Products in the Smart Grid with the ability to handle sensor uncertainty, sensor fusion, inference, diagnostics and distributed decision-making.


This talk describes the Smart Lighting project – the application of wireless sensor networks to customizable commercial lighting control. This example requires decision making in the face of uncertainty, with needs for system self-configuration and learning. As two-thirds of electricity generated in the US is for commercial buildings, and lighting consumes 40% of this, the application also has the potential for significant energy savings. The goal is to leverage wireless sensor networks (WSN) to create an intelligent, economical solution for reducing energy costs – and overall societal energy usage – while improving individual lighting comfort levels. The talk will present the results of two years of testing on an installed Smart Lighting system, along with plans for implementation of the technology to NASA’s Sustainable Base – a new green building at NASA Ames. Future research on multi-agent techniques involving distributed learning over a wider range of internet appliances will also be described.


Biographical Sketch:


Alice M. Agogino is the Roscoe and Elizabeth Hughes Professor of Mechanical Engineering and is affiliated faculty at the Haas School of Business. Her research interests include Creative IT, product design, MEMS CAD, diagnostics & monitoring, supervisory control and sustainable engineering. She has served in a number of administrative positions at UC Berkeley, including Associate Dean of Engineering and Faculty Assistant to the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost in Educational Development and Technology. She also served as Director for Synthesis, an NSF-sponsored coalition of eight universities with the goal of reforming undergraduate engineering education, and continues as PI for the Engineering Pathway (www.engineeringpathway.org) educational digital library.


Agogino received a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of New Mexico (1975), M.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering  (1978) from the University of California at Berkeley and Ph.D. from the Department of Engineering-Economic Systems at Stanford University (1984).  She has authored over 200 scholarly publications; has won numerous teaching, best paper, service and research awards; and is a member of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE). At NAE she current serves as a Councellor; previously she worked on NAE’s Technologically Speaking, Engineer 2020 and Beyond Bias and Barriers: Fulfilling the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering projects. She has supervised 81 MS projects/theses, 33 doctoral dissertations and numerous undergraduate researchers.