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Prof Exploring The Future Of Energy-Efficient Buildings

Published: November 15, 2013

Electrical Engineering’s Mohammad Mostafizur Mozumdar uses his department’s Networked Embedded Systems (NES) Lab at CSULB to explore the future of energy-efficient buildings.

Mozumdar, who joined the university last all, is an expert on applications for sensor networks and energy-efficient building information. In a joint collaboration between CSULB and UC Berkeley, Mozumdar authored an article titled “Routing-Aware Design of Indoor Wireless Sensor Networks Using an Interactive Tool” which will appear in the IEEE System Journal.

“The future impact of wireless sensing is enormous,” explained Mozumdar, who comes to CSULB from a postdoctoral position at UC Berkeley. “In a world where the scarcity of energy is felt every day, it is a fact that most energy is used in the home or in transportation. Total primary energy consumption in the United States increased from 78.3 quads in 1980 to over 100 quads in 2008. The building sector consumes about 40 percent of primary energy consumption in the United States. If we could optimize energy consumption in millions of homes, there would be less of a problem with energy.”

Say an office worker steps out of a lit office for a moment, Mozumdar suggests. The lights keep burning although the occupant is gone. “Magnify that by hundreds of millions of office workers and you have plenty of energy being used for nothing,” he explained. “Based on sensing technology, we can control our environment. The day will come when smart buildings will turn lights on and off without user input. Could we implement this kind of sensing at home? How much would it save? We are trying to design a sensing system that will end up costing the consumer less and less every year.”

The Network Embedded Systems Lab plays a big role in Mozumdar’s research. “The key to future sensors is their size. They are very small and getting smaller. The key to this research is not any single sensor but a network of devices,” he said. “How can millions of these sensors be networked? That is the key. How do we design a network that covers hundreds of square feet of space? How to build smart sensing and controlling applications based on millions of sensors? How to conserve energy inside the large sensing network to prolong its operation?”

Mozumdar is interested in the cyber-physical world that combines computing and networking with mechanical, electrical and chemical processes. “One of my projects is the attempt to create a cyber-physical system that increases energy efficiency in modern buildings,” he said. “My goal is sensors for smart buildings. A system like this could enable someone driving home to find their place automatically pre-heated. Plus, it enables us to measure how much energy we use to light or warm our homes. The main idea is to sense the environment, whether that means light, temperature humidity, occupancy or so. It is possible to interact with the physical things in your home at anytime from anywhere. That is what we are trying to do with our smart building information system.”

Future NES Lab research includes a project Mozumdar calls “the six senses.” Anyone with a smart phone can acquire any information anywhere but can we get information off our bodies? “You can with biometrics,” he said. “That is what we are trying to build right now, a computer that can take information directly from our bodies. It is a small, portable biomedical sensor that can touch someone’s skin and detect such vital information as heart rate or blood pressure or oxygen use. It retrieves information previously available only from your primary care physician.”

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Mohammad Mostafizur Mozumdar

Mozumdar is at work on a proposal to the National Science Foundation to support his research into such portable biomedical sensors with the help of student assistants. “I want to find out how to develop such a device then how to make it available to millions of users,” he said. “It is a big project for students but I am proud of giving them the toughest projects. With the tough problems, students can cross the threshold into interesting ideas. But if I were to set the bar too low, who would be challenged?”

Mozumdar received his bachelor of computer science and engineering degree from BUET in Bangladesh, his M.Sc. in computer science from Aachen Tech University in Germany and his doctorate in electronics and communication engineering from Politecnico di Torino in Italy.

One of the distinguishing characteristics of the near future is “disappearing technology.” Mozumdar pointed to sensors designed in 2002 that were the size of matchboxes. Today, the same sensors are a fraction of that size. “The future may not see the technology that surrounds them but it will be there. It may seem like a science fiction movie but there is no fiction to it,” he said. “The buildings in the future will have touch screens built right into their walls. There is a big future for embedded systems.”

Mozumdar’s ultimate research goal is to create smart solutions that can be used by millions of users. “I recalled a conversation with a Google representative who said he wasn’t interested in ideas that served only thousands. He wanted ideas that would affect millions,” he said. “If we can solve the problems of millions of users—what kind of system would control a whole neighborhood of homes—that will be interesting.”

–Richard Manly