Mesa Responsible Data Use Assessment Summary

LAST UPDATED: OCTOBER 2020


This document is a summary of Sidewalk Labs’ Responsible Data Use Assessment for its Mesa product.

Sidewalk Labs conducts Responsible Data Use Assessments to ensure its work respects and protects individuals’ privacy, and that we are using data responsibly. Like a Privacy Impact Assessment, a Responsible Data Use Assessment identifies potential privacy risks at an early stage so that they can be appropriately mitigated. Additionally, Sidewalk Labs’ Responsible Data Use Assessments are designed to include broader considerations around data ethics to ensure consistent application of responsible data practices.

The Responsible Data Use Assessment only reflects Sidewalk Labs’ assessment of its Mesa product, and is not intended to make any representations on behalf of its customers or any other party.

Overview

Commercial office buildings can waste a lot of energy, often from unnecessary energy use associated with heating, air-conditioning, and the energy consumed by plugged-in devices. For example, some buildings might overheat or over-cool spaces based on fixed setpoints that don’t adjust for outside temperatures, and some office tenants may not turn off conference screens overnight. In New York City, commercial buildings account for approximately 30 percent of all building-related greenhouse gas emissions, but only 15% of all buildings by area and 3% by building stock.

Mesa is an easy-install product that uses real-time data and automation to optimize heating, cooling, and plug load energy use in commercial office buildings spaces with the objectives of reducing energy waste and creating a comfortable office environment. Mesa includes a kit of third party devices and its own software and optimization engine to reduce energy use. These devices only collect non-identifying data.

The kit of devices may include:

  • Connected thermostats
  • Ambient temperature and humidity sensors
  • Millimeter proximity sensors to determine if windows and/or doors are open
  • Occupancy detectors to detect whether a space is occupied or empty
  • Manual buttons for people to indicate whether a space is “too hot,” “okay,” or “too cold”
  • A cloud connector to securely connect devices to cloud-based storage

The software services may include:

  • A Tenant App, for people working in the office and office space administrators
  • An Optimization Backend
  • A Dashboard, for authorized users, which may include office space administrators, property manager/owners, and/or building engineers

The Tenant App helps people who work in the office identify which areas of the office might be most comfortable for them by enabling them to view the current temperature and occupied/free status of different areas of the office. It provides them with the option of creating a profile that includes temperature preferences, and the ability to “vote” on the temperature by selecting an area of the office in the App and providing feedback (“too hot, “okay,” “too cold”). They can also see how their feedback compares against the office average. Finally, the Tenant App provides its users with visibility into energy-related activity in the office (e.g. air conditioning was activated in the east conference room) and summary statistics on office temperature and energy use.

The Optimization Backend uses the device data, real-time feedback from people working in the office, and publicly available data to set thermostats to a comfortable temperature and to activate or deactivate smart plug outlets as needed. The Optimization Backend provides office space administrators with suggestions for operational savings and notifies them of any detected operational anomalies.

The Dashboard provides authorized users with an overview of how the Mesa installations they administer are functioning. This includes confirmation that the installations are online and functioning properly, estimated energy savings, and aggregate tenant thermal comfort (e.g. 90% of people in the office feel comfortable in their space). They can also use the Dashboard to view activity feeds (e.g. an alert that extreme temperatures have been detected, a temperature set point increasing based on people’s feedback, smart plugs turning off, etc.), as well as the real-time status of individual devices (e.g. current temperature, temperature set point, humidity, smart plug on/off status and energy consumption, etc.). If a device requires manual adjustment, the Dashboard provides an interface for authorized users to manually adjust the set points and status of individual thermostats and smart plugs.

Mitigation Measures

While Sidewalk Labs cannot control how others deploy and use its products, we apply measures in the design and operation of all products to safeguard privacy and ensure responsible data use. Key mitigation measures applied to the Mesa product are highlighted below.

Transparency. The Mesa kit includes signage that customers are encouraged to display to help people understand the installed technology and its purpose.

Data minimization. Sidewalk Labs has applied the principle of data minimization throughout the design of Mesa. This means only the minimum amount of data needed to achieve the beneficial purpose should be collected and the least invasive technology available to achieve the beneficial purpose should be used.

Mesa devices do not collect personally identifiable data. Mesa devices do not collect personally identifiable data about people in the office, meaning none of the devices collect information that, alone, could reasonably be used to identify an individual. None of Mesa’s devices use cameras or video footage.

Occupancy data collection is limited to occupied/empty. The occupancy sensors only register whether there is motion in an area — they do not provide counts of the number of people in a space.

No location tracking. Office workers who wish to provide temperature feedback for an area of the office manually select the area in the Tenant App. There is no location tracking using GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or other means.

User choice: opt-in consent for the use of the app. Use of the Tenant App is voluntary and opt-in, as is the user’s entry of profile information and temperature preferences, and providing temperature feedback using the app. Mesa’s kit of devices includes physical buttons to provide anonymous temperature feedback, which provides an alternative to the app.

Conclusion

Sidewalk Labs' Responsible Data Use Assessment is used to ensure its products and pilots respect and safeguard individuals’ privacy and use data responsibly by identifying potential risks at an early stage so that they can be appropriately mitigated. The Mesa product aims to provide the benefit of reducing energy waste and lowering carbon footprint at an affordable price for commercial buildings, while ensuring considerations regarding the potential collection of sensitive information via devices installed in an office space and via the Tenant App have been appropriately mitigated, in accordance with existing best practices.