Buildings

Published on December 17th, 2015 | by Kyle Field

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Honda Smart Home Opens Up Breakthrough Data Streams

December 17th, 2015 by  

honda_smart_home_backyard

The Honda Smart Home

When I first heard of the Honda Smart Home (HSH), my first question was, “Wait, why is Honda playing with Smart Homes?” Digging deeper reveals that this new endeavor aims to build on some of the core principles of Honda while, at the same time, stretching the company into new areas, such as tapping into the benefits of home automation when paired with an EV that carries around a large battery everywhere it goes. One of the key tenets of this exploratory initiative is open-source data sharing, and Honda just took a very large step in this direction by opening up a ton of new data streams (200!) at 1-minute intervals.

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Honda Smart Home Open Source Downloads

I really enjoy the type of data being gathered by the integrated Honda Energy Management System and can appreciate just how impactful this data can be, as it allows anyone to go in, download the data, and play with it to their heart’s content. Summarize, roll up, drill down, average, min/max… the excel geek in me is tingling with the possibilities. I am especially interested in how this type of a central “energy brain” in a home essentially allows users to see exactly what parts of their home are performing well or not.

For example, when my wife and I first moved into our home, I obsessively upgraded all of the lights to compact flourescent lights (CFLs) which were subsidized by the state and only cost us $0.50 each. Having granular electricity savings by circuit or, even better, by outlet would have allowed me to see just how much I was saving. The same goes for LEDs in today’s world… or any other energy investment. Want to upgrade that old heater? Bam, have some data. Curious just how much that new electric water heater is costing you in electricity? Data to the rescue!

Geek Aside: I do want to call out here that I am not interchangeably using energy/electricity, as homes use very different forms of energy depending on what part of the world they are in: electricity, natural gas, heating oil, propane, solar, geothermal, etc. I’m working on another more in-depth piece that will flesh this out a bit further, so keep your eyes peeled for that.

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Honda is also working on an iPad interface for the HSH

Okay, so data obviously touches me in a very personal way, but so what… why do you care? And more relevantly to the topic at hand, why does Honda care? Apparently, Honda also geeks out on data, and having access to these granular home energy data streams enables Honda and any university or industry partners to get behind-the-scenes data on how a real home with real people living in it actually uses energy in day-to-day life, and frankly, the data simply was not available before the HSH.

Now that I’ve built a case for the why behind the data, let’s jump into what exactly was shared. Honda opened up the aforementioned 200 data streams down to 1-minute increments to the public… anyone… everyone… for April through September 2015. I expect that many researchers are already combing through this massive data set (a 100 MB zip file… 329 MB uncompressed!) and turning the data into insights.

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The data dump includes a “Data Analyzer.”

As if this wasn’t enough goodness from the HSH team, there is a water component to the system as well, and with the home being located in California’s central valley, water conservation is a key metric for the team. The team admits that the residents of the home are responsible water users, which provides a lower-than-average baseline footprint but the home has a few tricks to drive it down even further.

For indoor water efficiency, the home utilizes a compact plumbing design and low-flow fixtures. Low-flow fixtures are old hat but compact plumbing design is only recently gaining popularity here in the US. Fundamentally, compact plumbing design takes steps to minimize water runs within the house with a specific focus on hot water lines. Minimizing the distance heated water must travel from the hot water heater and the point of use cuts down on radiant heat loss. The longer the pipes, the more pipe has to be heated, the more heat is pulled off of the pipe by cooler air/insulation surrounding it… etc. Shorter pipe runs are generally cheaper to install with fewer materials and less labor, with less pipe and joints to cause issues in the future. Sounds great to me! The US Green Building Council, home of the coveted LEED certification standards, has more on what comprises an “efficient hot water distribution system.”

Governor Jerry Brown, Stuart Bennett, Suasan O'Hara, Aisling, 9, and Sabha, 9, at the Honda House on Friday February 6, 2014 at UC Davis. The Bennett family lives in the house.

The Happy Honda Smart Home Residents posing with California Governor Jerry Brown

Beyond the compact plumbing design, the indoor water usage is very similar to what you’d get from the best commercially available technology, leveraging efficient appliances and fixtures. Basically, stuff you can pick up today from your local hardware store… though it might require some digging to find the “best” option. From the HSH blog post:

“The monitoring data shows that while clothes washing and toilets consumed about the same amount of water as the best practice construction, our occupants were able to slash consumption via showers, baths and sinks, without sacrificing their quality of life.  Low-flow fixtures play a role, but so does the conservation mindset that Stu, Susan and their family have embraced.”

This particular update does not mention outdoor water usage, but from the photos, it is evident that the home is using low-water landscaping, but I wouldn’t leave you with an update extrapolated from a picture….

Rolling water usage data up, the Honda Smart Home family of four is using only 85 gallons of water per day. According to the US EPA, the average American family of four uses upwards of 400 gallons per day, which is crazy to think about! It is clear from the data that the indoor tech used is already available in stores today, which is fantastic news for anyone interested in improving their liquid footprint. Honda broke out the key pillars of liquid effort in a nice infographic:

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This recent update from the Honda Smart Home team really opened my eyes to new opportunities with home automation… or more accurately, home data gathering. It’s like a Nest Thermostat for your entire home energy usage with all of the fun Internet of Things goodness wrapped up in a slick package.

I will leave you with a video overview of the home, which is admittedly ~1 year old:

All Images and Videos via Honda Smart Home


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About the Author

I'm a tech geek passionately in search of actionable ways to reduce the negative impact my life has on the planet, save money and reduce stress. Live intentionally, make conscious decisions, love more, act responsibly, play. The more you know, the less you need. TSLA investor. Tesla referral link: http://ts.la/kyle623



  • JamesWimberley

    It would have been more logical for Tesla to move sideways into home automation than Honda, still primarily an ICE car and motorbike company. Tesla must be considering their options. The space is rapidly filling up, with competing projects from Google/Nest and Apple, not to mention the old controls companies like Schneider and Honeywell and upstarts like Lowe.

    • vensonata

      Yes. The public mind has separate categories for a house and a car. But if we focus on energy use we will see they are similar structures. They will both benefit from autonomous storage (battery/ thermal), efficiency improvements and the sharing of self produced electricity (rooftop solar, efficient combustion engines as back up reliability, eg hybrid cars, and hybrid houses)

    • Kyle Field

      I could still see Tesla doing this as part of the rollout of Tesla Energy Powerwalls. It’s a natural build on home energy storage and peak shaving.

  • Freddy D

    Buildings are the sleeping giant in solving climate change because the energy consumption is huge (and difficult to change because these things are in service for 50 or 100 years or more). Furthermore, there is really only one energy usage in buildings that accounts for almost all of the energy consumption: heating/cooling. I too am a data geek and an energy geek, and the meaningful data about buildings is knowing where the heat is flowing and when and why. That’s the 80% of energy usage. These systems, on the other hand, measure tons of stuff about the other 20%. Hopefully this data can get beyond the 20% but I’ve seen this movie before and the worlds energy consumption hasn’t budged as a result. Now, on the other hand, require that all buildings for sale or rent come with an “MPG” sticker ( with analysis as to why) like the UK or city of Austin require, now you have meaningful data. As well as requiring minimum performance against those metrics. That will move the needle.

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