A FAIR approach?

Dr Steven Firth and Professor Tarek Hassan
Architecture, Building and Civil Engineering

Smart Homes are becoming the norm with more of us making use of ICT to manage our domestic security, comfort and energy use.

The collaborative REFIT project (2012-15) explored ways to encourage uptake of retrofit technology measures in a bid to reduce household energy demand and costs.

It collected a range of data including the findings of participant interviews and surveys, information about the homes involved, the sensors installed and their readings. Over a two-year period, 1,567 sensors provided over 1.5 billion readings.

The resulting fully open access REFIT Smart Home dataset – managed by our Building Energy Research Group (BERG) and first published in 2017 – shares the information recorded in REFIT’s energy monitoring study of 20 homes.

The challenge for BERG was to share the data in a format meaningful to researchers worldwide who have no prior knowledge of the study. To address this, they published extensive metadata alongside the data itself to support interoperability and reusability.

Crucially, a bespoke XML schema was developed: it contains full details of the entities studied, the relationships between them, and the response options to measurement questions.

In addition to making the data accessible, the XML schema also provides a blueprint for researchers to collect their own additional primary data and report it using the REFIT approach.

BERG recognise there is still much work to do before such datasets can be considered truly FAIR and further research is planned to develop common, shared vocabularies and ontologies for the Building Energy research community. However, the REFIT Smart Home dataset marks a significant step towards publishing FAIR data.

What’s more, the dataset is proving very popular. To date, it has accumulated 1,550 downloads and 6,940 views.