Lights out

Energy conservation app aims to help users save money

Smartphone applications have made life considerably easier for people by helping them to more effectively manage various aspects of daily life. Now, unVolt, an application developed by a team at Case Western Reserve University, will soon be able to help users manage their energy consumption and save money in the process.

Initially created to help homeowners conserve energy, unVolt is an application that will utilize passive behavioral modification techniques to guide users with decisions relating to energy usage.

Amith Iyer, the senior app developer and lead marketing manager for unVolt, says that homeowners often face decisions that conflict with their lifestyles, especially concerning energy usage.

“I don’t think there are a lot of smartphone apps that give you daily recommendations [about] what you can to do to save energy … based on your lifestyle and your area,” Iyer said. “[unVolt is] very personal and tailored to your own sort of demands.”

After installing unVolt, users are prompted to answer a series of 10 questions relating to their homes, living conditions and habits. The application will then make personalized recommendations based on the local weather forecast and users’ lifestyles.

The application will also provide users with the estimated savings they have accrued and the approximate resources they have conserved by employing the energy usage recommendations.

“The calculations we do to calculate how much energy you can save are very exact, very scientific,” said Joe Ledger, the senior back-end developer. “We did a lot of research and design behind [unVolt] to provide really detailed information on how you can save money.”

Every night, the application will run user input information through an algorithm. In the morning, users will receive household-specific suggestions of ways to reduce energy consumption, like closing the blinds during the day or unplugging appliances when they are not in use.

Iyer describes unVolt as a “helping hand” that reminds users of ways they can become more energy efficient in their households.

The concept for unVolt spans back to 2013 when graduate students Shariq Ali and David Buckmaster, presently the chief executive officer and chief technology officer, respectively, came together with a shared interest in energy conservation to develop a rough design.

With support from the CWRU Great Lakes Energy Institute and the Department of Energy, Ali and Buckmaster were able to develop and shape unVolt from concept to startup, creating a user-friendly, minimalistic product.

After receiving feedback from beta testers, unVolt will soon be available for iOS users. The unVolt team is still developing more ways to add functionality to the application, and perhaps even incorporate gamification elements in order to further incentivize users.

With over 60 personalized suggestions relating to energy consumption, unVolt will offer individuals an opportunity to use metric data to more effectively incorporate energy efficiency into their lifestyles.