Skip to content

Recent Articles


UBC ICICS: Rethinking Sustainability Symposium 2014

The Rethinking Sustainability Symposium is just around the corner. For the website:

Two Days of Inspiration!

24 – 25 April 2014, Vancouver

This symposium features a broad range of stimulating expert speakers who are “rethinking sustainability.” The underlying philosophy is that trying to change human behaviour to achieve our sustainability goals is not enough. Instead, we should focus on developing new technologies that are both environmentally friendly and improve our quality of life.

Highlighted at the symposium will be a large-scale multidisciplinary approach to sustainability: the ICICS/TELUS People & Planet Friendly Home. This research initiative embraces the symposium philosophy by developing a suite of new technologies that are user-friendly across multiple generations, affordable, and allow for seamless transition as technologies evolve.


See you there!


NILM: What an algorithm can tell you about your energy consumption

Last night I attended the 2014 IEEE Vancouver Section Annual General Meeting. What an amazing event! Leo Del Castillo the General Manager of Xbox Devices at Microsoft was the keynote speaker talking about Xbox One. The Kinect sensor is amazing!

My poster was displayed last night at the Poster Session. I tried with success to make the poster interactive and engaging. Attached to the poster is a cover that hides the NIML disaggregation chart of appliances (see poster 1). The poster was laminated so that the smart meter data chart could be marked using dry erase markers. Once the audience members finished trying to guess what appliances turned ON/OFF and when, they could open the cover to view the NILM chart (poster 2). The audience members could then compare the marked-up smart meter data chart to the NILM chart.

During the session it was very hard for audience members to guess what appliances turned ON/OFF and when. A grounp of 2 people were able to guess that the heating and kettle were ON just before 6:00pm. The poster can be downloaded here.

Keywords: load disaggregation, appliance, smart meter, energy conservation



Courses on computational sustainability, green computing, buildings

Stephen Makonin:

A fellow NILM researcher, Nipun, has posted a list of computational sustainability courses offered by different universities around the world. I am currently taking the course at UBC (#5 on the list).

Originally posted on :

In this post I mention about some recent courses on computational sustainability, green computing and related topics. I will update this list periodically. In case you have a suggestion, please drop a comment. Many of these courses are reading oriented and the readings cover some of the most relevant work in the field.
Sno Offering Institute Course Name Term
1 CMU Green Computing Spring 2014
2 UMASS/IIT Bombay New Trends in Information Technology Winter 2014
3 CMU Computational Methods for Smart Grid Fall 2013
4 Cornell Topics in Computational Sustainability Spring 2011
5 UBC Computational Sustainability Spring 2011

View original


Using Computing and Engineering to Tackle Sustainability Problems with Energy Consumption

Today I giving a technical seminar to the BCIT School of Energy faculty and students. My understanding is that a will be a large number of  people RSVP’ed. I will give a 40 minute presentation with a 10 minute Q&A session. My main focus will be on how faculty, students, and researchers for both computing and engineering can work together to tackle sustainability problems.

I will demonstrate this by discussing how in computing we can use load disaggregation or noninstrutive (appliance) load monitoring (NILM) to understand how different homes and the occupants within consume power/energy. I will then related that to the hardware/electronics created by engineering students that I helped mentor.

My Senior Supervisor Dr Fred Popowich will join me as an audience member.

The information flyer: Flyer – Technical Seminar Feb 21 – Stephen Makonin.


Why There Is Nothing Smart about the Current Smart Home and Smart Meter

Today I gave a seminar to the BCIT Building Science Graduate Program faculty and masters students. It was a one hour presentation with a half-hour discussion session. Here is the abstract:

Home automation is often seen as the cornerstone of the smart home and the smart meter is often heralded as the key component supporting energy displays that can notify home occupants of their energy usage. However, they are not. Home automation allows for remote access to sensor and actuators within a home and the rudimentary automation of them through a calendaring system and a set of rigid rules. A smart meter is only a digital power meter with enhanced communications capabilities. These systems are not actually smart. We need to look beyond home automation and the smart meter. We need to define what intelligence is needed to actually make a home and a power meter smart.

The meeting was well attended and we had some very good discussion. Well back to thesis writing….


Research Website Update and AMPds Year 2

I decided to update my NILM research website today. I added my NILM publications. Hopefully in the next month I can add some algorithm accuracy results to the website, too.

One other thing to note is that come April 1 (2014) I will be making available a second year’s worth of data for AMPds. I am also thinking of having a different file format. Instead of having files based on load (e.g. CDE.csv, etc) with measurements as columns . I would have files based on measurement (e.g. A.csv, P.csv, etc) with loads as columns. This would make it easier to load and use. Also, Nipun Batra pointed out an error with the water meter data where the pulse counters were reset when I installed new water meters. The old meters pulsed every cubic-foot and the new meters pulse every 0.5 litres. The pulse counter unit caused what looks like a rest because of the unit conversion from the old pulse measurements to the new 0.5 litres measurements. I had completely forgot about this. I will be fixing this problem when year 2 is released.


NILM Workshop 2014

The NILM Workshop 2014 has been announced.  From the website:

“The mission of this workshop is to create a forum that can unite all the researchers that are working on the topic of energy disaggregation. The main objective of this event is to review the main types of approaches that have been explored to date to solve the problem of electricity disaggregation, and to then discuss possible paths forward knowing what has been tried and what has yet to be experimented. We also intend to have a group discussion about possible solutions to the growing need for standardized datasets and performance metrics that can allow the field to move forward, as well as possible areas of collaboration among different research groups.” (

I missed the 2012 workshop, but I will be going to this one. Timing may be tricky as I may be attending the IEEE Canada International Humanitarian Technology Conference (IHTC) which is happening at roughly the same time!


IEEE Vancouver: Joint Computing Chapter

I am now the Chair of the Joint Computing Chapter for the IEEE Vancouver Section. This chapter has the following societies:

  • IEEE Computer Society
  • IEEE Computational Intelligence Society

The URL is:


Inspiring Energy Conservation Through Open Source Metering Hardware and Embedded Real-Time Load Disaggregation

This morning I learnt that my full co-authored (with co-author William Sung, Ryan Dela Cruz, Brett Yarrow, Bob GillFred Popowich,  and Ivan Bajic) paper “Inspiring Energy Conservation Through Open Source Metering Hardware and Embedded Real-Time Load Disaggregation” was accepted at IEEE‘s PES Asia-Pacific Power and Energy Engineering Conference (IEEE PES APPEEC 2013). So I am headed off to Hong Kong at the beginning of December. Here is the paper abstract:

Utility companies around the world are replacing electro-mechanical power meters with new smart meters. These digital power meters have enhanced communication capabilities, but they are not actually smart. We present the cognitive power meter (c-meter), a meter that is actually smart. By using load disaggregation intelligence, c-meter is the realization of demand response and other smart grid energy conservation initiatives. Our c-meter is made of two key components: a prototype open source ammeter and an optimized embedded load disaggregation algorithm (uDisagg).

Additionally, we provide an open source multi-circuit ammeter array that can build probabilistic appliance (or load) consumption models that are used by the c-meter. uDisagg is the first load disaggregation algorithm to be implemented on an inexpensive low-power embedded processor that runs in real-time using a typical/basic smart meter measurement (current, in A). uDisagg can disaggregate loads with complex power states with a high degree of accuracy.

Keywords: embedded software, energy conservation, load modelling, open source hardware, real-time systems

This paper shows the results of our  Cognitive Power Meter (c-meter) version 1. One thing to note, we have not released this to open source — we still need to do some code clean up.


Computational sustainability: a modern collaborative approach to sustainable development

Last month Amid Sedghi from SFU Carbon Talks interviewed me for an article on computational sustainability. He has now posted his article called “Computational sustainability: a modern collaborative approach to sustainable development” which can be viewed here.

For those of you who would like to know what computational sustainability is the Institute for Computational Sustainability (ICS) defines it as:

Computational Sustainability is an interdisciplinary field that aims to apply techniques from computer science, information science, operations research, applied mathematics, and statistics for balancing environmental, economic, and societal needs for sustainable development.

Focus: developing computational and mathematical models and methods for decision making concerning the management and allocation of resources in order to help solve some of the most challenging problems related to sustainability.



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: