LBNL Research on Stove Use Monitoring Systems (SUMS)
Figure: A stove use monitor (white box on wall with a wire to a probe in the cookstove) deployed on a traditional cookstove in Gujarat, India. Photo courtesy of Tata Trusts.
What are SUMS?
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) and other research teams are working to improve environmental health for millions worldwide. By developing knowledge and tools that can help decrease indoor air pollution from cookstoves, LBNL and others are seeking to reduce the 3-4 million annual premature deaths associated with traditional cooking fires (1). To develop the best cookstove technologies for the 3 billion people who cook on traditional fires, researchers must thoroughly understand how cookstoves are being used. Objective metrics of cookstove adoption are necessary to estimate the impacts of cookstoves on health, economic outcomes, and the environment. Objective measures of adoption can also help implementers understand which cookstoves people prefer, how and when the cookstoves are being operated, how cookstove use changes over months or years of ownership, to what extent newer cleaner cookstoves displace traditional cookstoves, how multiple cookstoves are used for different tasks (“stove stacking”), and other essential information regarding stove use patterns (2–4).
Stove Use Monitoring Systems (SUMS) are systems of tools that facilitate the objective monitoring of cookstove adoption. Complete SUMS solutions typically encompass hardware and software components for the collection, transmission, analysis, and interpretation of cookstove usage information. All SUMS include a sensing device for measuring the physical environment. In a SUMS deployment, cookstoves are instrumented with sensors (data loggers) to collect physical data such as temperature, heat flux, electrical current, motion, or pollutant concentrations. In a typical installation, hundreds or thousands of data loggers are installed and deployed across as many cookstoves.
The word “SUMS” does not imply any specific sensor, data logger, software, or analysis method for measuring cookstove use. A “SUM” (no trailing “S”), or “stove use monitor,” may refer to the hardware sensor component itself. Confusingly, more than one SUM sensor are called SUMs. Many people in the cookstove sector associate the word “SUMS” with Maxim’s iButton Thermochron-brand data logger; this conflation of Stove Use Monitoring Systems with a single hardware device is likely due to Ruiz-Mercado’s seminal work with SUMS in the early 2010s (5–8).
What Have Been LBNL’s Contributions to SUMS?
SUMS in Darfur, Sudan
LBNL has contributed to the development of SUMS hardware, software, and performed research on user behavior using SUMS. In 2013, members of LBNL’s cookstove research group used SUMS to monitor the adoption of 180 Berkeley Darfur Stoves (BDS) inside internally-displaced peoples’ camps in Darfur, Sudan (9). This work revealed several important behaviors of BDS customers including that surveys were an extremely unreliable way to measure adoptions (SUMS data did not correlate with surveys), and that a short follow-up with customers caused more than 80% of people who formerly did not use the BDS to start using it regularly.
Figure: Left: BDS cookstoves in being distributed in Darfur. Right: a customer of the BDS holding her cookstove and pointing to SUM sensor.
Figure: SUMS showed that a followup dramatically increased cookstove adoption for “nonusers” of the BDS.
ASUMS in Odisha, India
In 2014, members of LBNL’s cookstove research group developed a new kind of SUMS nicknamed the ASUMS (Advanced Stove Use Monitoring System). ASUMS was used to measure adoption of cookstoves outfitted with thermoelectric generators and outboard USB charging ports (10). The ASUMS measured and analyzed cookstove temperature, thermoelectric generator power, USB power, cookstove fan speed, and whether a pot was on the stove. Our team designed an experiment where identical cookstoves were given to different families, but a random selection of cookstoves had their USB charging capability disabled. Although the USB-enabled and USB-disabled cookstoves were otherwise identical in terms of form and function, we found that families that had USB-enabled cookstoves used their cookstoves three times more than families with USB disabled. Also, ASUMS data revealed additional use of the cookstove was indeed for cooking, not just for using the cookstove as a fire-powered USB charger. These data could not have been realized without ASUMS; surveys of the families did not suggest any of these behaviors.
Figure: ASUMS sensors (black box) mounted to the side of BioLite CampStoves in India.
Simplifying Data Analysis with SUMSarizer
Then, in 2015, our team contributed significantly to making the software and analytics side of SUMS easier for the cookstove research and implementation community. In the early days of SUMS deployments, analyzing data was a daunting and time-consuming task, requiring patience, perseverance, and an array of special technical skills. A typical cookstove project might involve 1000 or more deployed cookstoves equipped with sensors, each generating its own files of raw data. In aggregate, SUMS deployments can collect hundreds of millions or even billions of data points. We wrote an open-source data processing tool called SUMSarizer that turns these raw time series data into summaries of cooking events. SUMSarizer uses powerful machine learning to process SUMS data, but does not require any coding skill, and is available for anyone to use. SUMSarizer is also offered as an open-source MIT-licensed R library.
Spinning out Enterprises
Finally, in 2018, Daniel Wilson, a former member of the LBNL team, completed his postdoctoral fellowship and founded a company called Geocene. Geocene enables large-scale data logger deployments, including SUMS. Deployments are facilitated by a Bluetooth temperature data logger, mobile app, automated machine learning-powered analytics, and dashboard. The temperature data logger is able to measure extremely high temperatures (>1000°C) using thermocouples, which means the sensing probe can be placed directly in the firebox. The combination of a unified SUMS platform, integrated software system, and rugged data logger make this SUMS platform well-suited for large-scale SUMS deployments. Geocene currently supports research programs like the HAPIN trial who are monitoring thousands of cookstoves as part of very large experimental trials.
Figure: a Geocene Temperature Logger (the SUM in Geocene SUMS)
Over the last decade (2009-2019) of research and development in the sector, state-of-the-art SUMS technology has dramatically improved ease of use and project productivity. Advanced SUMS solutions can now provide the following capabilities:
- Fully-integrated functionality
- Environmentally hardened sensors
- Easy device installation and deployment
- Machine learning algorithms to facilitate data interpretation and analysis
- Automatic wireless data synchronization
- Application Program Interfaces (APIs) to accommodate the integration of data from other data loggers
- Automatic data upload via mobile apps to real-time online dashboard reports
- Data sharing across applications using APIs or integrated with other applications using R or Python libraries
Figure: a Geocene SUM mounted on the back-left a Berkeley Cool-Mesh cookstove.
Why Use SUMS?
The success of cookstove programs is directly linked to adoption; a high-performance cookstove that never gets used or does not displace traditional cookstoves will not improve lives. Additionally, SUMS provide critical insight into cookstove usage patterns and users’ behavior. Insights from these data can be used to build a better understanding users’ needs. SUMS-powered iterative design results in better cookstoves, training, marketing, and, consequently, increased adoption.
SUMS provide actionable data for program managers, stove developers, and researchers to better understand cookstove usage patterns and adoption. Analysis of SUMS data shows how and when cookstoves are being used. SUMS metrics facilitate improved cookstove technology design in areas such as increased efficiency, optimized use of available local natural resources, minimization of harmful wastes associated with cooking, and synergy with the culture, needs, economic situation, and household practices of the region. SUMS can be used to fine-tune stove technology implementation, catch incorrect usage assumptions early on, and provide data showing measurable results for program managers, social scientists, economists, and philanthropic funding institutions. Data can be analyzed to assess program effectiveness and to measure correlation of cookstove improvements with local health, social, and environmental impact.
Therefore, SUMS-based monitoring of adoption is a necessary part of a high-quality cookstove program’s standard operating procedure. When designing a cookstove intervention, program managers should ensure that SUMS are funded and implemented upfront as part of standard practice. Without the input provided by SUMS, well-intentioned projects can fail to deliver the intended results.
The impact of cookstove programs is a function not only of the technical performance of the stove, but also how well the cookstove is adopted in the population. Monitoring performance with stove usage monitoring systems (SUMS) enhances adoption by exposing project issues early and revealing project insights faster and more accurately. The cookstove sector is entering a new phase of technological sophistication. The deployment of ubiquitous SUMS technology as an integral part of cookstove deployments’ standard operating procedures ensures that funding and resources are wisely leveraged.
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