Crowdsourcing Predictors of Residential Electric Energy Usage

by   Mark D. Wagy, et al.

Crowdsourcing has been successfully applied in many domains including astronomy, cryptography and biology. In order to test its potential for useful application in a Smart Grid context, this paper investigates the extent to which a crowd can contribute predictive hypotheses to a model of residential electric energy consumption. In this experiment, the crowd generated hypotheses about factors that make one home different from another in terms of monthly energy usage. To implement this concept, we deployed a web-based system within which 627 residential electricity customers posed 632 questions that they thought predictive of energy usage. While this occurred, the same group provided 110,573 answers to these questions as they accumulated. Thus users both suggested the hypotheses that drive a predictive model and provided the data upon which the model is built. We used the resulting question and answer data to build a predictive model of monthly electric energy consumption, using random forest regression. Because of the sparse nature of the answer data, careful statistical work was needed to ensure that these models are valid. The results indicate that the crowd can generate useful hypotheses, despite the sparse nature of the dataset.


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