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News Archive 2001 - 2010

Student is Living in UTA “Smart” Apartment

July 14, 2004

Juan Lopez lives in a student apartment like no other. Placed around his University of Texas at Arlington apartment are more than150 sensors wired to four computers. They’re all part of a real-life test of a “smart” living environment, where the entire home is an intelligent host that learns about the inhabitants, responds to their actions and anticipates their needs.

Lopez is a computer engineering senior and a participant in the Research Experiences for Undergraduates program. The sensors in his apartment, called the MavPad, measure things such as motion, temperature, light, etc. Sensors in the bathroom can tell if the toilet or sink is overflowing and initiate a command to turn off the water. Sensors mounted to the ceiling can tell where people are in the apartment; others sense light levels and either open the blinds or turn on lights. The sensors facilitate the control of many devices in the apartment, from heating and air conditioning to media preferences.

Though data collection has been underway in the apartment for several months, it’s only the latest portion of a research project that’s been active in the College of Engineering’s Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) Department since 2001. That’s when CSE Professor Diane Cook secured a $1.16 million grant from the National Science Foundation to develop the artificial intelligence (AI) necessary for a smart home to monitor, reason and react to inhabitants’ living patterns and preferences. All sensors and applications used in the MavPad have been integrated and tested in Dr. Cook’s AI laboratory before being installed.

The MavPad will gain national exposure next year when it will be featured in a new program on the HGTV cable channel. A video crew for American Home 2005 recently taped Dr. Cook and Research Faculty Associate Michael Youngblood, the chief scientist for the smart home, as they demonstrated features of the apartment.