Towards automated appliance recognition using an EMF sensor in NILM platforms


Non-Intrusive Load Monitoring (NILM) has been studied for a few decades now as a method of disaggregating information about appliance level power consumption in a building from aggregate measurements of voltage and/or current obtained at a centralized location in the electrical system. When such information is provided to the electricity consumer as feedback, they can then take the necessary steps to modify their behavior and conserve electricity.  Research has shown potential for savings of up to 20% through this kind of feedback.  The training phase required to allow the algorithms to recognize appliances in the home at the beginning of a NILM setup is a big hindrance to wide adoption of the technique. One of the recent advances in this research area includes the addition of an Electro-Magnetic Field (EMF) sensor that measures the electric and magnetic field nearby an appliance to detect its operational state. This information, when coupled with the aggregate power consumption data for the home, can help to train a NILM system, which is a significant step forward in automating the training phase. This paper explores the theory behind the operation of the EMF sensor and discusses the feasibility of automating the training and classification process using these devices. A case study is presented, where magnetic field measurements of 8 appliances are analyzed to determine the viability of using these signals alone to determine the type of appliance that the EMF sensor has been placed next to. Various dimensionality reduction techniques are applied to the collected data, and the resulting feature vectors are used to train a variety of common machine learning classifiers. A vector subspace obtained using Independent Component Analysis (ICA), along with a k-NN classifier, was found to perform best among the different alternatives explored. Possible reasons behind the findings are discussed and areas for further exploration are proposed.