Computer Science Research Opportunities in Sustainability

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Computer Science Research Opportunities in Sustainability. Randal E. Bryant. Background. Workshop on the Role of Information Sciences and Engineering in Sustainability Sponsored by NSF, run by Computing Community Consortium February 3-4, 2011
Computer ScienceResearch Opportunities in SustainabilityRandal E. Bryant
  • Workshop on the Role of Information Sciences and Engineering in Sustainability
  • Sponsored by NSF, run by Computing Community Consortium
  • February 3-4, 2011
  • ~ 60 participants
  • Organizers: Randal Bryant, Doug Fisher, Erwin Gianchandani, Carla Gomes, William Rouse, Prashant Shenoy, Robert Sproull, David Waltz, and Krishna Kant
  • Report
  • Available at:
  • NSF SEES Program
  • Science Engineering and Education for Sustainability
  • Spans entire NSF
  • Budget
  • FY 2012 request: $998 million
  • CISE request: $46 million
  • Sustainability
  • “Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”
  • --Brundtland Commission of UN, 1987
  • Some Dimensions of SustainabilityBuildingsLow Power ITSmart GridEnergyElectricityRenewable energyTransportationElectric VehiclesRide SharingEnvironmentTraffic OptimizationClimateHabitat PreservationAdapting toclimate changeGoogle Data Centers
  • Dalles, Oregon
  • Hydroelectric power @ 2¢ / KW Hr
  • 50 Megawatts
  • Enough to power 60,000 homes
  • Engineered for maximum modularity & power efficiency
  • Container: 1160 servers, 250KW
  • Server: 2 disks, 2 processors
  • IT and Energy
  • Data Center Power
  • The research topic of choice for many computer scientists
  • Interesting problems, lots of progress
  • ~2% of US power consumption
  • Beyond Data Centers
  • How can IT fundamentally improve the processes of electricity generation, transmission, and consumption?
  • Other aspects of sustainability
  • How can computer scientists contribute?
  • With ideas & approaches that our counterparts in electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, & civil engineering would not think of
  • Computational thinking for sustainability
  • Advanced IT’s Role in Sustainability
  • Systems that continuously monitor themselves, and adapt, repair and optimize
  • Systems designed as large networks of loosely coupled agents
  • Serving the needs and characteristics of people
  • Trustworthy modeling and simulation
  • Self Monitoring, Adapting, Repairing, and Tuning Sensors EverywhereAdaptive SystemsTurn HVAC & lights on & offDiagnose faulty appliancesAdjust wind farms to weather patternsRoute around congestionDetect and report environmnetal risks
  • Building occupancy
  • Localized energy usage
  • Energy generation
  • Traffic flow
  • Environmental monitors
  • Sensor-Rich Systems
  • Challenges (and Research Opportunities)
  • Configuring
  • Need systems to self-identify and configure themselves
  • Ensuring Reliability
  • What happens when sensor is faulty?
  • Maintaining Privacy
  • Will collect data about people that should not be released
  • Where people are
  • What they are doing
  • Agent-Based Systems“I need 10KWh by 7am tomorrow”
  • Systems continuously negotiate supply & demand with each other
  • Millions of agents working together
  • UtilityCompanyHomeEnergyManager“OK, will provide 2KW from 12:00 to 5:00 at $0.07/KWh.”Agent-Based Systems
  • Motivation
  • Only way to ensure scalability
  • Enables individuals to make their own choices
  • Vs. centralized control schemes proposed by utilities
  • E.g., utility can provide cost incentives to reduce electricity usage during peak loads, rather than shutting down appliances
  • Challenges
  • Ensuring robust operation
  • Despite unexpected events, software errors, …
  • Minimize vulnerability to malicious attack
  • The Role of People
  • Individuals
  • Motivating them to conserve
  • Typical household pays more for TV cable service than for electricity
  • Most individuals do not want to expend lots of time & effort managing resource usage
  • Systems must be highly automated and easy to use
  • Learn individual preferences and apply them
  • Groups
  • Social networking technology can support conservation
  • Exerting subtle forms of peer pressure
  • Sharing of resources, e.g., carpooling
  • Reliable Modeling & Simulation
  • Modeling & Simulation Critical Tools
  • Predicting effects of decisions
  • Current Methods Error-Prone and Lack Transparency
  • What are effects of simplifying assumptions
  • Reliable Modeling & Simulation (cont)
  • Current Methods Error-Prone and Lack Transparency
  • Modeling decisions embedded in complex software
  • Fail to consider adaptations by people
  • E.g., building more freeways causes people to move further away from work
  • Must gain trust of citizens & policy makers
  • Constructing Models Labor Intensive
  • E.g., deriving building performance model from construction diagrams
  • Information rapidly becomes out of date
  • Opportunities
  • Automatically matching model parameters to sensed data
  • Ongoing Research Projects
  • Understanding Climate Change: A data-driven approach
  • Vipin Kumar, U Minnesota. NSF Expedition
  • Analyze climate-related data from satellites, ground-based sensors
  • Relate to predictions generated by climate simulations
  • Ongoing Research Projects (cont.)
  • Institute for Computational Sustainability
  • Carla Gomes, Cornell. NSF Expedition
  • Using data mining & optimization techniques to optimize resource management
  • Glacier ParkSalmon-SelwayYellowstoneOngoing Projects (cont.)
  • Center for Computational Learning Systems
  • David Waltz, Columbia. Mostly industry funding
  • Applying machine learning / data mining to real-world problems
  • Close working relationship with Consolidated Edison
  • Data mining of maintenance records
  • Placement of EV charging stations
  • Analysis of 2003 blackout
  • Some Characteristics of Successes
  • Use-Inspired Research
  • How CSE can be applied to non-IT problems
  • Close engagement with specific problems
  • Close Collaboration with Domain Experts
  • Academics in other fields
  • Industry
  • Federal agencies
  • Scale of Operations
  • Easier to do as part of large-scale, interdisciplinary center
  • But, there are instances of success at single-PI level
  • Smaller-Scale Examples
  • Formally Verifying Distributed Vehicle Control System
  • Andre Platzer, CMU
  • Based on model of system to control braking, acceleration, and lane changes by autonomous vehicles
  • Smaller Scale Examples (cont.)
  • Low-cost sensors for monitoring home resource utilization
  • Shwetak Patel, U Washington
  • Sensors + Machine learning + HCI
  • Smaller Scale Examples (cont.)
  • Improved Power Control for Electric Vehicles
  • Illah Nourbakhsh, CMU
  • Use machine learning & crowd sourcing to optimize energy management
  • BatteriesMotor / GeneratorSuper CapacitorExploiting Super Capacitor
  • Super Capacitor acts as Power Cache
  • Absorbs short-term fluctuations in charge / discharge
  • Reduces stress on batteries
  • Control Strategy
  • Want to charge when braking for stop sign / discharge when start
  • How can vehicle predict upcoming charge / discharge needs?
  • ControllerBatteriesMotor /GeneratorSuperCapacitorBenefits of Super Capacitor
  • 100 W/h storage ≈ 11ml gasoline
  • Yields 37% savings on battery duty
  • Working with U.S. Industry
  • Highly fragmented
  • E.g., Somerset County, PA windfarm
  • Developed by Atlantic Renewable Energy Corp & Zikha Renewable Energy LLC
  • GE Wind turbines
  • Operated by Florida Power & Light
  • Supplied into grid by FirstEnergy Solutions
  • Who could manage comprehensive overhaul?
  • Low R&D Investment
  • Regulated monopolies have limited incentive to innovate
  • High capital costs & safety concerns limit willingness to make drastic changes
  • Conclusions
  • Research Opportunities Across Many Areas of CSE
  • Cyberphysical systems
  • Systems engineering
  • Machine learning & data mining
  • Optimization
  • Agent-based systems
  • Modeling & simulation
  • Human-computer interaction
  • Seek Participation From Across CSE Community
  • Report
  • Recommended
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