What is COLLECTiEF – Collective Intelligence for Energy Flexibility?


Amin Moazami, Associate Professor at NTNU and coordinator of the COLLECTiEF project

Vahid M. Nik, Associate Professor at Lund University and scientific coordinator of the COLLECTiEF project

Christian Johansson, CEO at NODA Intelligent Systems


A smart building is defined as a building that can adjust its operation based on the need of the users and the need of the grid1. The technological advancement in recent years has enabled the realization of buildings with a high level of smartness. In these buildings, the users benefit from a building that can adjust the indoor conditions towards maximizing the user’s satisfaction and comfort, while minimizing the energy bills through smart energy management.

The energy management system is also able to interact with the grid and provide more energy flexibility if requested by the energy provider. Energy flexibility in buildings is the ability to deviate from normal operations while still ensuring the quality of service. This can, for example, be used to ensure alignment with the dynamic profile of the energy sources such as wind and solar energy2. Such demand response is becoming increasingly important to a) support the transition to energy systems with large shares of renewable energy sources (RES) by decreasing volatility and b) tackle climate change and the increasing frequency of extreme weather conditions such as heatwaves by increasing flexibility.

Therefore, smart buildings, that can coordinate their demand response in aggregated groups, are a key element in creating more stable and more climate-resilient energy networks with a high share of RES. However, almost 75% of the EU building stock are existing buildings with zero smartness level with no possibility of interacting with the grid and users, and at least 75% of today’s buildings will still exist by 20503.

What do we do?

With the COLLECTiEF project, we aim to upgrade the smartness of existing buildings to a higher level and create a collaborative network of a large number of buildings providing grid flexibility while still ensuring the quality of service to the end customer.


How do we achieve our objectives?

The COLLECTiEF system relies on Collective intelligence (CI). CI is a distributed intelligence paradigm, which brings the main computation and sensor solutions at the building level (edge) and enables the integration of appliances and technical systems into a collaborative network to manage energy in a scalable manner within existing buildings, neighborhoods, and urban systems.

The solution is a nature-inspired technology. We can find many examples of collective intelligence in nature when entities are connected so that collectively they act more intelligent than any individual entity is capable of. These entities interact and communicate based on simple rules and complex behavior emerge from the interactions, like a school of fish, an army of ants, or a colony of bees. This is the core of the technology that is going to be tested in the pilot buildings of COLLECTiEF

The solution provided by COLLECTiEF has a simple communication logic (among energy systems, buildings, and appliances) with a minimum need for data transfer and storage. COLLECTiEF uses low-cost and open source components such as Raspberry PI in combination with cost-effective equipment available on the market such as smart plugs and smart thermostats.

The CI-based energy network will work with no central data management and control system. Buildings are active elements that interact with the grid in real-time and manage themselves efficiently, based on self-learning/self-optimizing algorithms. This will ensure cost-efficiency (estimated implementation cost of the whole CI-based network infrastructure: 4-5 €/m2) with estimated annual energy cost savings up to 3 €/m2 depending on building type and original energy demand of the buildings. Moreover, the buildings can further benefit from the local incentives provided through local demand response programs.



1SRI explained | Energy (europa.eu)

2IEA EBC || Annex 82 || Energy Flexible Buildings Towards Resilient Low Carbon Energy Systems || IEA EBC || Annex 82 (iea-ebc.org)

3New rules for greener and smarter buildings will increase quality of life for all Europeans | European Commission (europa.eu)