My car is a legacy Saab Aero from 2003, with turbocharged 2.3 litre engine and automatic transmission. When I plug in my laptop into it via the standard OBD-II port, I can talk to four different computers and 112+ sensors and actuators thoughout the car. The OBD-II standard has been used in all cars since 1996, and it was originally created for enforcing exhaust gas emission levels in order to reduce pollution.

The primary engine computer adjusts the gas mixture, ignition timing, manifold pressure and numerous other things up to 100 times per second, optimizing performance and fuel efficiency at different RPMs and engine loads. The transmission computer learns my driving style and adjusts gear shifting every 50 kilometers.

During the last 50 years, fuel efficiency in cars has improved more than 50% due to advanced electronics performing measurements and controls. It is a remarkable achievement, given that this was a joint undertaking by governments and the auto industry. People’s perceptions have also changed a lot, as the liters/100 km (or miles per gallon) figures are shown at the instrument panel, in real time.

For some reason, the situation is totally different in much more expensive things, like residential and industrial buildings. A new 250.000€ house built today may have 100€ worth of control electronics in heating and cooling, but real optimization of energy efficiency is virtually nonexistent. Furthermore, these thermostates and temperature sensors are usually installed with default settings, causing inefficient fluctuation in required electricity, or district heating and cooling.

As our project with Fortum shows, there is hope that this massive efficiency potential is finally being recognized and we start optimizing also other than niche things.


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