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The United States Department of Energy (DOE) wants ideas on how to make smart buildings smarter and it’s using crowdsourcing to get them.

Through a program called JUMP, innovative thinkers in the area of energy efficient building technologies are rewarded with idea development and prize money, and the first JUMP winners were announced in May 2016.

JUMP, which stands for Join in the discussion, Unveil innovation, Motivate transformation and Promote technology-to-market, is an official DOE initiative aimed at advancing energy efficient building technologies. The program presents an opportunity for the public to present ideas, both big and small, for new energy efficient building technologies to private and public sector leaders in research and development.

“JUMP is exactly the platform I was looking for to express my creativity and innovate collaboratively. Independent inventors often struggle to develop ideas that the market is ready to accept. Even then, it is difficult to strike the balance between protecting and sharing an idea to further develop it. JUMP is a recipe for success because it brings the large organizations, small innovators, and national laboratories to the table to identify what the market needs, the technology can solve that need, and how to get it to market quickly,” said one of this year’s winners.

JUMP is essentially an online crowdsourcing community that aims to bridge the gap between cutting-edge ideas and the marketplace. The initiative is co-hosted by five DOE national laboratories; Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Argonne, Lawrence Berkeley, Pacific Northwest National Laboratories and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Each lab is seeking industry partners and innovators to join JUMP. Industry partners gain access to national laboratory expertise while helping shape technologies and services for the next generation of energy efficient buildings. Innovators can connect to technology partners and may qualify for cash prizes, in-kind technical support, and recognition.

“By leveraging their individual research team and industry connections, each lab is co-developing calls for innovation relevant to the most pressing industry challenges, to accelerate technology to market,” said Melissa Lapsa, Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s group leader for Whole Building and Community Integration.

The list of industry partners already includes General Electric, Honeywell, IntelliChoice Energy, United Technologies Research Center, A.O. Smith, Building Robotics, Callida Energy, Clean Energy Trust, CLEAResult, and Emerson Climate Technologies.

Large online networks have proven to be some of the most productive sources of innovation in recent years. Guided by enterprise, government research and development verticals, the crowdsourcing trend is growing rapidly due to a shift in focus from single-point services to the co-creation (collaborative innovation) model.

Many of the best crowdsourcing examples are, perhaps surprisingly, coming from large enterprises and government agencies. Driven by continued pressure to innovate, large companies like Apple, IBM, GE and a host of others have launched their own prize challenges seeking original ideas, products and software solutions. The DOE itself launched the SunShot Initiative in 2015 to make solar energy more affordable and accessible. Now it plans to continue that strategy for building technology through JUMP.

“We have more than 500 registered users on our JUMP crowdsourcing platform and we look forward to connecting an even larger community for innovation in the upcoming regional events with our national lab and industry partners,” said Karma Sawyer, technology analysis and commercialization manager with DOE’s Building Technology Office.

The DOE welcomes energy efficient building technology ideas that fall under the specific topics, or “calls for innovation” that have been rolled out. To qualify, ideas must offer the potential for significant energy savings, advance disruptive innovation for building technologies, must be developed fully enough that feasibility can be evaluated, and must not advertise or endorse specific companies or products.

May’s winners in the HVAC Sensors Challenge were Rande Cherry and Chris Cirenza won for their concept of non-invasive thermal flow/Btu metering using heat flux sensors. They received a $5,000 cash award sponsored by United Technologies Research Center.
In the Water Heater Challenge, Benjamin Knobb was selected for his idea for a thermally isolating pre-heater. He received a $5,000 cash award sponsored by A.O. Smith.

Finally, in the Defrost System Challenge, Joseph Geddes won for his idea to use light emitting diode arrays to radiatively transfer energy to the ice. He received a $3,000 cash award from General Electric.

Three new “calls for innovation” have already been issued for the next set of JUMP awards, they include;

  • Commercialized or near-commercialized technologies on lighting or lighting controls, and packaged HVAC or HVAC control systems to enable significant energy savings in federal buildings, for the DOE’s Federal Energy Management Program and Oak Ridge National Laboratory
  • Ways to leverage the open, programmable, and sensor-rich platform of smartphones to enhance the way we live, manage, and interact with our homes today and in the future, for CLEAResult and National Renewable Energy Laboratory
  • Ideas for distributed temperature sensing in office buildings, for Callida Energy and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

“The JUMP initiative is undoubtedly a step in the right direction, but we will only know how big a step as these initial projects mature, then succeed or fail. The long emerging smart building sector is still ripe for innovation and there is no doubt that great ideas lurk in entrepreneurial corners of the general public. The DOE, its partners, and the industry as a whole will hope that JUMP can lift those ideas off the ground to help create the energy efficient buildings of the future.”

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