Buildings as Cyber-Physical Systems

Denmark aims to become a fossil free society in 2050. Shaping electricity
demand so that it matches the variable nature of renewable supply will lead us
a long way towards achieving these climate and energy targets. Digital
technologies are expected to play an enabling key role in supporting flexible
electricity consumption.
Buildings are the main consumer of primary energy in Europe and the US.
Non-residential buildings, like the one of the IT University, are particularly
challenging because they are public spaces where economic incentives are not
linked to electricity consumption. We are studying how to promote flexible
electricity consumption in non-residential buildings.
If electricity is consumed by machines or devices, then it is possible to
schedule their operations in a way that generates a given electricity
consumption. If, however, electricity is consumed as a side effect of human
activities, then adjusting electricity consumption requires that people
actually adjust their practices in order to keep the resulting electricity
demand remains within the given envelope.
Non-residential buildings contain usually a plethora of sensors and actuators
in form of a Building Management System (BMS). However, this data is not widely
available. It is reserved to facility management for building operation. Could
some of this data be used as a basis for new applications that enable users to
interact with a building in a way that promotes flexible electricity
consumption? New smart appliances and sensors that evolve around novel
analytics solutions developed on top of the Internet of Things (IoT) open up
new possibilities. The cost of these new smart devices is declining rapidly,
while smartphones have already become ubiquitous for most of us. These
challenges and trends make non-residential buildings an ideal playground for
experimental system research.
In this research area, we design and build the foundation for a human-centric,
adaptive and decentralized building system that helps to promote flexible
electricity consumption and increase occupant comfort. We explore the
trade-offs related to privacy and resilience that emerge in the connection of
such a system to cloud services. Ultimately we have the vision of transforming
buildings to systems that allows the deployment of arbitrary applications,
while assuring their safe execution, transferability and preservation of