A Boston company has come up with a new and efficient way for homeowners to save money on energy costs, a timely innovation given the impact of this week's snow storms in the northeast US. The company is using a newly developed technology that can map heat signatures for entire cities in matter of days, generating data that could potentially produce billions in energy savings. Ben Gruber reports.
STORY: On a cold wintry night in Cambridge Massachusetts, an SUV equipped with state-of-the-art sensor technology is roaming the streets. Outside it's near pitch black, but the laptop screens operating inside are glowing with colors showing the heat signature of each house the car passes by. Sanjay Sarma, a professor of mechanical engineering at MIT, says those vivid colors represent a lot more than heat. (SOUNDBITE) (English) SANJAY SARMA, PROFESSOR OF MECHANICAL ENGINEERING, MIT, SAYING: "What you should really see is dollar bills flying out of the building. That is really what is happening, you are just throwing away dollar bills, they are just flying out. And we can grab those dollar bills and return them to the consumer." To catch all that money, Sarma set up a company called Essess. The company has developed technology which can generate an accurate heat loss analysis for a home in a matter of seconds. (SOUNDBITE) (English) TOM SCARAMELINO, CEO, ESSESS, SAYING: "What the system is really designed for is simply to measure heatflow against the building facade in as accurate a manner as possible such that we can really deliver actionable advice around what improvements to make in the home from an energy savings stand point." That is Tom Scaramelino, the CEO of Essess. He says this scan technology accomplishes in a short drive-by what used to take hours using conventional scanning techniques. To make that possible Sarma and his team fitted a car with infrared cameras to sense heat, conventional cameras for orientation, a LIDAR sensor which uses lasers to measure depth and map the surroundings and a GPS to pinpoint location. Sarma says it would take a human months to analyze the terabytes of raw sensor data produced by his technology, but he and his team have also developed machine learning algorithms, which he says can produce results in minutes. The potential of the technology says Scaramelino, is enormous. (SOUNDBITE) (English) TOM SCARAMELINO, CEO, ESSESS, SAYING: "We have more than 130 million homes in this country. With our system we can scan all of those homes." (SOUNDBITE) (English) SANJAY SARMA, PROFESSOR OF MECHANICAL ENGINEERING, MIT, SAYING: "You can use this technology really as a sort of intelligence gathering mechanism for our surroundings. To see what is working and what is not. It is a way to make cities more efficient, buildings more efficient, infrastructure more efficient." Sarma says more efficient infrastructure is good for the environment as well, another reason he says his technology is a hot tool... even in the dead of winter.