M. Gupta, S. S. Intille, and K. Larson, "Adding GPS-control to traditional thermostats: An exploration of potential energy savings and design challenges," Proceedings of the Seventh International Conference on Pervasive Computing, pp. 95-114, 2009. [PDF]


Although manual and programmable home thermostats can save energy when used properly, studies have shown that over 40% of U.S. homes may not use energy-saving temperature setbacks when homes are unoccupied. We propose a system for augmenting these thermostats using just-in-time heating and cooling based on travel-to-home distance obtained from location-aware mobile phones. Analyzing GPS travel data from 8 participants (8-12 weeks each) and heating and cooling characteristics from 5 homes, we report results of running computer simulations estimating potential energy savings from such a device. Using a GPS-enabled thermostat might lead to savings of as much as 7% for some households that do not regularly use the temperature setback afforded by manual and programmable thermostats. Significantly, these savings could be obtained without requiring any change in occupant behavior or comfort level, and the technology could be implemented affordably by exploiting the ubiquity of mobile phones. Additional savings may be possible with modest context-sensitive prompting. We report on design considerations identified during a pilot test of a fully-functional implementation of the system.


Context, computing, HVAC, energy, smart homes, mobile computing, phone, behavior change, thermostat.


This work was funded by the MIT House_n Consortium. The authors thank the reviewers for helpful comments, Telespial Systems for Trackstick donations, and our participants.