There is more computing power in your pocket than we used to put a man on the moon. Have you heard this lately? I heard it last week at the closing plenary for AESP’s spring conference. Doesn’t it sound grand? Aren’t we smart? Not really, and not so much.
Do Smart Phones Make us Dumb?
Do smartphones and their apps make us dumb? Maybe not, but unlike the fairy tale that coffee stunted our growth as children, the drones do stunt cerebral, intellectual, and social growth for sure. For example, people consult with their bestie drones 80 times per day or 30,000 times per year. How many times do they consult with their spouse, parent, or kid, or even the person they are sharing a meal with? Six times? Ten?
Can people get to distant point B without the aid of a phone? No. Another casualty of the phone, on top of Kodak, Casio, and CD players is Rand McNally. Maps are a thing of garage sales and wall art.
After years of skipping the dash-mounted GPSs, I succumbed to the GPS on my phone. It was free, but most importantly, it was there. I didn’t have to acquire it, find the best one, take it out of the box, figure it out, or mess with anything. It also takes up no space on my dash, and it is always with me.
Is there value in reading a map and finding your way without being told what to do by a drone? Absolutely! Generally, people don’t like to exercise their brains just as they don’t like to exercise their bodies. Exercise for brains provides similar benefits, and in some cases, similar endorphins as exercise for the body.
Math for Dummies
Some of us remember as kids, why do I need to learn math when a calculator can do it for me. Think that’s easy? Now there are apps that solve math problems for you, including calculus, with no more than your phone’s camera. I would say that is the pinnacle of laziness, but I’m afraid we haven’t even made it to base camp of laziness.
Like last week’s post, where I discussed our vulnerabilities to an electromagnetic pulse, the average user loses half their ability to get by if their bestie drone dies or gets lost. It was this article from Inc. that made me realize I know only a small handful of phone numbers – my home phone number when I was a kid, my cell phone number today, and a few desk phone numbers from the office. If I lost my cell phone, how would I contact anyone? This is crazy! I took the opportunity to jot down some numbers for my wallet.
The collage below shows just a few of the things we use our phones for today, and I could spend another entire Saturday adding more.
Faulty Smart Phone Projections
A major problem with the smartphone is people project its amazing capabilities onto other technologies. If all that power can be packed into the palm of your hand, it can be applied to cars, drones for energy audits, building automation systems, energy simulations, and virtual energy audits.
A phone’s portability and longevity do not apply to transportation. If my drone battery runs low, I have a minor inconvenience to find a 120V outlet and charge it up. I can do that at my convenience while I switch to a different technology like my computer or iPad. Or, I can even use my drone as it’s charging. Not so with cars. When I need a charge, I need a charge, and I can’t reduce my use because all the power is used to transport me, rather than do things like having 50 apps running in the background as optional.
If virtual energy audits are the cat’s meow, why does Nest tell me I’m doing great while Xcel Energy, my utility, via Opower, tells me I suck at the same time? I bought the Nest, and they want me to feel good about that. Opower? It could be their MO is shaming or alarming people and hoping 25% of us will respond with favorable behavior to drive down consumption by 1.5% on average. And this is a one-dimensional analysis with energy consumption / runtime being the only variable!
Primitive State of Artificial Intelligence
Artificial intelligence (AI) for building automation is still in the primitively crude state. For example, we recently had in-house training on chiller plant optimization. The objective is to minimize energy consumption of two or three pairs of pumps, the chiller, and the cooling tower fan. Rather than letting AI figure it out, the best approach is a simple linear relationship using two variables.
Building automation systems need to manage ventilation rates and do a reasonable job of controlling temperature and humidity while taking inputs from hundreds of monitoring points, and sending control signals to hundreds of additional points. Consider AI can’t even reliably handle a few pieces of equipment in a chilled water plant, so how would it handle a thousand variables building wide? Energy efficiency engineers – sleep well, my friends.