Quiz: What You Don’t Know About Robots, Smart Gadgets, and the Internet of Things


Titan supercomputer (Credit: Oak Ridge National Laboratory)

Sure, there’s the cute Google self-driving car. Yet plenty of cutting-edge technologies that use sensors, big data and connectivity could transform the energy industry. They pose potential security risks, but by automating some of what we do, they could also cut energy use and help mitigate global warming.

Quiz by Wendy Koch

People often refer to the “Internet of Things” (or loT) to describe objects with software, sensors, and network connectivity that collect and exchange data. Who’s commonly credited with coining this term?

  • Al Gore
  • Vint Cerf
  • Kevin Ashton
  • Bill Gates

A British entrepreneur who co-founded the Auto-ID Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Ashton used the phrase in a 1999 article and it caught on.

Several companies, including car-sharing giant Uber, are putting sensors on vehicles—such as taxis or “robocabs”—so they drive themselves. In 2015, Google began testing its prototype in which U.S. city?

  • San Francisco
  • Austin
  • Seattle
  • Boston

For several years, Google’s car has been trolling the roads of Mountain View, California, and in July 2015, it expanded to Austin, Texas.

Drones or unmanned aircraft are also equipped with sensors and cameras. They’re being used in the energy industry as a cheaper, safer way to inspect which type of facilities?

  • Pipelines
  • Windmills
  • Solar farms
  • All of the above

The U.S. government has given utilities and companies the go-ahead to use drones for commercial use, generally within 200 feet of the ground. (Find out how drones are becoming energy’s new Inspector Gadget.)

Subsea robots are monitoring oil wells in the Gulf of Mexico, relaying data on their performance to workers on land. How deep do these robots work?

  • 500-2,500 feet
  • 2,500-5,000 feet
  • 5,000-10,000 feet
  • More than 10,000 feet

Several oil companies are using robots a mile (5,280 feet) or more below the water’s surface. Current Gulf wells aren’t drilled in water deeper than 10,000 feet. (Learn more about deepwater drilling.)

The supercomputer Titan, built by Cray at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, handles huge amounts of data. How are researchers using it to boost fuel efficiency?

  • Running complex simulations of traffic patterns for better road design
  • Analyzing code to come up with tamper-free auto software
  • Modeling the burning of fuel for more efficient combustion
  • Testing the energy content of various gasoline blends at a molecular level

Scientists are running simulations of fuel-burning flames. The work could improve combustion engines and help cars eventually burn 25 to 50 percent less fuel.

More homes are getting smart meters, which track energy use in real time and can be used to encourage consumers to cut back. As of mid-2014, what percentage of U.S. homes had them?

  • 33 percent
  • 43 percent
  • 53 percent
  • 63 percent

At least 50 million smart meters had been installed by July 2014, according to an Edison Foundation report, covering more than 43 percent of U.S. homes. (See related story: "Who's Watching? Privacy Concerns Persist as Smart Meters Roll Out.")

Homes are gaining other smart devices, too, including thermostats, lighting, and appliances that can be remotely operated by a phone. About how much was spent worldwide on residential loT devices in 2015?

  • $1.2 billion
  • $7.3 billion
  • $15.4 billion
  • $22.6 billion

Navigant Research estimates that global revenue for these devices will jump from $7.3 billion currently to $67.7 billion in 2025.

Moving beyond homes, the entire power grid is gaining IQ points with sensors, connectivity and IT. How much did the U.S. electricity sector spend from 2010 through 2013 on smart grid technology?

  • $5 billion
  • $18 billion
  • $31 billion
  • $44 billion

It spent an estimated $18 billion on such technology over this four-year period, hitting a high of $5.2 billion in 2011, according to a smart grid report by the U.S. Department of Energy.

The smart grid can also be vulnerable to hackers. In 2013, according to a report by the Bipartisan Policy Center, the Department of Homeland Security responded to more than 80 incidents involving energy companies. True or False?

  • True
  • False

The think tank’s report says cyber threats to North America’s electric grid are growing. In October 2015, the U.S. Department of Energy announced $34 million in funding for two research projects to boost security.

As part of the loT, there’s been a surge in network-connected devices that consume energy even in standby mode. These devices are driving up global power demand, but today’s best available technologies could slash it by how much?

  • 15 percent
  • 50 percent
  • 65 percent
  • 90 percent

In a 2014 report, the International Energy Agency said the standby power demand of these devices—projected to rise 6 percent annually—can be cut by two-thirds.





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