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UTSA spinout receives global honor for innovation

UTSA spinout receives global honor for innovation

Jeff Xu, CEO of Leaptran (left), with Brian Dillard, Chief Innovation Officer of the City of San Antonio at the Smart 50 Award Ceremony for Smart Cities Connect

(April 15, 2019) -- Leaptran, a spinout from The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), has been designated a Smart 50 awardee. Organized in partnership with Smart Cities Connect (SCC), SCC Foundation and US Ignite, the annual Smart 50 Awards honor the world’s most innovative and influential smart cities projects. Leaptran CEO Jeff Xu accepted the award this month at the annual SCC Spring Conference & Expo in Denver.

“There is an increasing need for optimizing energy use in buildings, but every building has different equipment and energy needs. This award recognizes that Leaptran has created an adaptive product that solves this incredibly complex problem, which then saves businesses significant money,” says Christine Burke, director of the UTSA Office of Commercialization and Innovation.

Leaptran, which won in the Urban Operations category, has built a cost-effective HVAC monitoring and control system for underserved medium-size commercial buildings. Based on an internet-of-things (IoTs) platform, it consists of a hardware and software solution. The hardware assembly includes Wi-Fi enabled thermostats, remote accessible electricity sub-meters and cloud connected and/or local computation devices. A software solution, Leapsmart™, has been created to produce optimized online control.

The thermostat network provides information for thermal comfort control, monitoring and equipment functionality diagnostics. Existing thermostats can be used through retrofits. The electricity sub-meters provide information for power consumption monitoring, energy behavior analysis and load forecasting.

Leapsmart™ is embedded in the computation device to communicate with and control the thermostat network and sub-meters from the cloud. Embedded schedule-based fuzzy logic controls are used to produce optimized temperature set-point setbacks for fast online control. Additionally, expert-rule based diagnostics is used to maintain equipment health, thermal comfort and fault alarming.

Beginning in January 2018, Leaptran has implemented a pilot at the San Antonio Technology Center (SATC) building, owned by Joe Miller. The team has been able to closely monitor the building utility grid, get insights into the tenants’ needs and usage, and create a road map to significant save energy throughout the building. The project has demonstrated approximately 350MWh of energy savings per year.

Other benefits include reducing operating costs by not having to upgrade existing equipment, a more robust control system based on cloud computing, energy saving based on occupants’ schedules and real-time energy analysis to maintain comfort. Ultimately, this can be offered as a cost-effective IoT solution for city managers and/or sustainability officers to reduce a city’s carbon emissions and environmental footprint.

Leaptran’s technologies are licensed from UTSA and are based on co-founder and UTSA assistant professor Bing Dong's more than 10 years of research in building energy efficiency, occupant behavior, big data analytics, intelligent building operation and optimization, measurement and verification, and buildings-to-grid integration research. Leaptran’s founder and CEO, Xu, is an energy storage expert. He originally identified and evaluated the technologies and recognized a great commercial opportunity.

“Our project implementation has managed to reduce energy consumption significantly, which, in absolute values, is equivalent to more than 20 average households’ combined annual electricity usage in Texas. This has been the most surprising result to date,” explained Xu.

Leaptran is one of two winners from San Antonio. The other project that was recognized is 311SA, a mobile app developed by Cityflag. The app allows users to interact with city government by submitting service requests through their mobile device while earning rewards. Users can also submitting a geo-locate service request that is sent directly to the appropriate city department for evaluation. One of its founders is a former UTSA guest scholar.

Sarah Hada

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University of Texas at San Antonio receives ‘transformational’ $40M gift

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