One of the innovations that came out
of your Ph.D. work was an energy-mon-itoring technique that uses a single,
simple sensor deployed on the electrical system to identify what devices
are drawing power. Later, at UW, you
pushed that concept into new domains
with technology that tracks per-fixture
water use from a single sensor.
The end goal was to provide feedback for people to be able understand
their energy usage and improve their
mental model of where energy and water are going.
Algorithmically, what you are doing
is looking at the side effects of using an
appliance or a water valve. When you
switch an appliance on and off, there
is electrical noise, or electromagnetic
ability, and effectiveness, which then
informs the design of how you build it
out long term.
SHWETAK PATEL, A professor at the University of Washington (UW), director of
a health technologies group at Google,
and recipient of the 2018 ACM Prize
in Computing, has made a career out
of pushing old tools to new heights.
He has leveraged existing infrastructure to make affordable energy monitoring systems; he used mobile phone
sensors like cameras and microphones to help manage chronic diseases. Here, Patel talks about feedback
loops, the home of the future, and the
changing healthcare landscape.
What triggered your interest in ubiqui-
As an undergrad, I worked in the
Georgia Tech (Georgia Institute of
Technology) Aware Home, which was a
facility with a bunch of different technologies that we used to explore what
the home of the future would look like.
We built applications for healthcare,
elder care, energy monitoring, and so
on, and a lot of my inspiration came
from that work.
In graduate school, you began to look
at how to leverage existing technologies and infrastructure to build some
of those same applications in a more
easily accessible way.
Sometimes, if you go straight to a
specific technology, it takes a while
before that can scale, but if you can
take these intermediate steps where
you leverage existing systems in
unique ways, then you can start to
answer questions about viability, us-
Inspired by the Home
of the Future
2018 ACM Prize in Computing recipient Shwetak Patel
pushes old tools to new heights.
DOI: 10.1145/3344298 Leah Hoffmann
[CONTINUED ON P. 111]
“We built applications
elder care, energy
monitoring, and so
on, and a lot of my
from that work.”