Energy Monitoring and the Big Three: Google, Microsoft, and Apple

It seems that in the last year solutions available for residential energy monitoring have exploded.  Luckily this is Mapawatt's "bread and butter".  The boom in popularity has a lot do to with the flood of products hitting the market for people to track and control their energy usage (see a complete list of energy monitoring companies here), but a large part of the increased attention in this area is due to the focus that Google, Microsoft and now Apple are putting on energy monitoring.


Google announced the PowerMeter in February of 2009 and in October they announced their partnership between the PowerMeter and TED 5000.  Basically, the PowerMeter is a dashboard that displays data collected from another company's energy meter.  Right now only users that have a smart meter or a TED 5000 (or AlertMe for users in the U.K.) can utilize Google PowerMeter.


Microsoft's approach is a little different than Google's.  They announced Microsoft Hohm in June of 2009.  Instead of being an energy display tool, Hohm seems to be a recommendation tool.  You create an account, enter in a bunch of data about your home, where you live, and how you use electricity, and Microsoft suggests things you can do to save more energy.

I created an account and went through the process, but got tired of answering what seemed like an endless set of questions.  While it is certainly important to get all of the data required to model one's home, I am just not too impressed by a tool that simply relies on user supplied data and doesn't have a real-world component (like an energy meter) associated with it.  Hohm is also a user community for those interested in saving energy.  I'm expecting to see more things come out of Hohm than what is currently available.

Now, if Google and Microsoft combined their tools, I might start to be impressed.  And that leads us to what Apple is up to....


News broke recently that in May of 2009 Apple filed two patents for devices that would help users manage their home electricity utilizing the HomePlug standard (communication over your home's electrical wiring).  While it is certainly exciting that Apple is interested in this market, it seems that Apple is just focusing on gadgets and computers.  This troubles me because so little of the energy you consume in your home is dedicated to gadgets and computers!  (You will know this if you have read my blog on Household Energy Use.  The graph on that post says that Electronics consume only about 4% of our home energy usage.)

Think about it:  How many people who are savvy enough to install a home energy management system aren't already going to have their computers set to standby/hibernate when they are not using them?

In any case, I'm interested to see what Apple, Google, and Microsoft have in store for us.  I just hope that they are able to put solutions together that really help consumers conserve massive amounts of energy; not just solutions that will get their names in the paper.

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I'm interested to see your comments after Google and Microsoft closed (closing) energy tools. Any news about Apple? Mybe they could take this situation and use it for good creating new product?
ckmapawatt's picture
Here you go: <a href="" rel="nofollow">Google PowerMeter says Goodbye</a> and <a href="" rel="nofollow">So Long Microsoft Hohm</a>.
Do you think purchasing a TED 5000 will qualify for an energy efficiency improvement tax credit?
if you look closely you'll see msft is trying to partner with utilities to get your usage from the utility directly. they also work with lawrence livermore (i think) to use the endless questionaire and the actual energy usage to finetune livermore's models about what is typical energy usage. that said, it's a little convoluted so far and needs a larger data set. not to mention needs to recognize that the techie who signs up might not be the spouse who pays the bills, which makes it impossible to get my utility to provide the feed... argh!
I'm very curious to see what Puget Sound Energy is doing behind the scenes (they're a test utility for the hohm project). Over the past two years, it seems that they've rolled out a true smart grid monitoring system, but aren't publicizing the info. I can dig into my electronic bills, and they list very, very accurate data on my usage (daily consumption, usage by type). I changed my lights to CFL, without changing my profile, and within a few months their 'usage by type' graph accurately reflected my change in lighting consumption.
Hohm is junk. I finally finished filling out the survey (which was a bear) and though it could not pull information from my providers it said I was only $300 less than the average home. I find that hard to believe when my electric provider shows me a graph indicating that during 75% of the year i am less than half of the average homes. (xmas lights and having family over eats money) I feel that my responses and information was pretty spot on despite not having a couple numbers handy. Oh well. I didnt think it was going to be worth my time but now I know. :-)

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