Wi-Fi Location-Based Services to Optimize Energy Efficiency

Lester Shen

Why This Research Is Needed

In 2016, commercial buildings consumed about 19% of the total energy consumed in the U.S. A study by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory found that advanced occupancy sensors used for both lighting and HVAC controls can achieve 18% energy savings at a national scale compared to their control building. DOE projections show an energy savings of 2.3 quads by 2035 through the adoption of connected lighting and control techniques. (For context, one quad is the equivalent of more than 8 billion gallons of gasoline.)
Wi-Fi Location-Based Services (LBS) methods can provide a greater level of occupancy sensing since:
  1. There is virtually no latency between the time when a new device has entered the room and when an updated occupancy count is calculated (as with CO2 sensors);
  2. Actual occupant counts are provided, not just status (motion sensors);
  3. Failure rates that occur with motion sensing are avoided when the device (or person) is at rest; and
  4. Wi-Fi LBS can map mobile devices with a resolution of ±5ft (within 20 feet of the sensor) and trigger customized operating conditions based on the status of their presence.

Project Process and Expected Outcomes

This project will investigate and demonstrate the use of beacon-based Wi-Fi LBS in commercial buildings to determine the energy and non-energy benefits of building management system integration of the technology.

By sensing occupancy presence, magnitude, and location, this emerging technology approach can allow energy services to be efficiently delivered when and where they are needed. Wi-Fi LBS methods can provide this granular level of detail based on occupant mobile device presence and when integrated with building operations can provide significant savings.
Researchers will investigate the use of beacon-based Wi-Fi LBS by:
  1. Analyzing the feasibility of Wi-Fi LBS to provide the necessary information and accuracy to perform quantitative, granular occupancy sensing for energy efficient building operation without requiring personal identifying information;
  2. Developing  tools and methods for integrating Wi-Fi LBS with standard BAS packages and other networked building systems; and
  3. Performing lab and small-scale in-situ testing to ensure that LBS occupancy sensing can improve energy efficient building operations.
Upon successful completion of these tasks, the technology and approach will be demonstrated at three sites located in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and New York. The cost, performance, and usability requirements for this approach will be determined; and recommendations will be developed to promote market acceptance and penetration.
This project is funded in part by the U.S. Department of Energy, Building Energy Efficiency Frontiers & Innovation Technologies. Read the news release. 


Project Info

36 months
This project will determine the energy and non-energy benefits of integrating Wi-Fi Location-Based Service in commercial buildings’ management systems.

The team will perform technical feasibility analysis and prototype integration of Wi-Fi LBS at 3 sites, where they will monitor performance and analyze savings.
Project Team
Leede Research
Consolidated Edison
Xcel Energy
Focus on Energy

Lester Shen, Ph.D., CEE
Di Sui, CEE
Scott Hackel, Seventhwave
U.S. Department of Energy


Technical Overview