Practical occupancy detection for programmable and smart thermostats

Elahe Soltanaghaei, Kamin Whitehouse

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Home automation systems can save a huge amount of energy by detecting home occupancy and sleep patterns to automatically control lights, HVAC, and water heating. However, the ability to achieve these benefits is limited by a lack of sensing technology that can reliably detect zone occupancy states. We present a new concept called Walkway Sensing based on the premise that motion sensors are more reliable in walkways than occupancy zones, such as hallways, foyers, and doorways, because people are always moving and always visible in walkways. We present a methodology for deploying motion sensors and a completely automated algorithm called WalkSense to infer zone occupancy states. WalkSense can operate in both offline (batch) and online (real-time) mode. We implement our system using two types of sensors and evaluate them on 350 days worth of data from 6 houses. Results indicate that WalkSense achieves 96% and 95% average accuracies in offline and online modes, respectively, which translates to over 47% and 30% of reduced energy wastage, and 71% and 30% of reduced comfort issues per day, in comparison to the conventional offline and online approaches.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)842-855
Number of pages14
JournalApplied Energy
StatePublished - Jun 15 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Energy saving
  • HVAC
  • Motion sensor
  • Occupancy detection
  • Walkway sensing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Building and Construction
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • General Energy
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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