Disused smartphones to control buildings

Dübendorf ZH – Hanmin Cai from the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (Empa) is working on using disused smartphones to control building systems. In this way, the CO2-intensive production of new computer chips for these tasks can be dispensed with.

The automation of building systems can significantly reduce the energy requirements of buildings. However, computer chips are required to control them, the production of which is associated with CO2 emissions. Hanmin Cai, a researcher in the field of urban energy systems at the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (Empa), wants to remedy this situation. Instead of new hardware, the Empa researcher wants to use decommissioned smartphones.

"These systems are designed to reduce energy consumption and CO2 emissions," Cai is quoted as saying in a corresponding Empa press release. "But if we have to manufacture new hardware for this, the production and transportation of which require valuable resources and cause large amounts of CO2, then we are simply shifting some of the emissions to other sectors." Smartphones that are taken out of service due to a damaged screen or low battery usually still have perfectly functioning memory and processors. Cai has investigated the extent to which these are suitable for controlling control and communication tasks in building systems.

Initial tests have shown that the smartphone controllers provide sufficient accuracy and communication speed for building control. However, according to the information provided, there is still a long way to go before the approach is ready for the market. Prior to this, issues such as security or the service life of the used memory and processors would have to be clarified. ce/hs

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