Print 22 comment(s) - last by Shmak.. on Jul 8 at 5:38 PM


Microsoft's Hohm is a web application which aims to help users track and cut their power costs. The app looks to contend with Google's PowerMeter.  (Source: Microsoft)
Plug yourself into Microsoft

Microsoft wants you to plug yourself into its new technology.  Debuting today is Microsoft's new Hohm beta, which promises to provide homeowners with means to manage and track power usage in their homes.  The tool is a public beta so it's free for anyone to sign up for and try.

Power bills comprise a major expense for many homeowners.  For owners of small properties such as condominiums, U.S. power bills can be as little as $100 or less a month.  For owners of larger homes, power bills can soar to over $300 or more a month, though.  Power has variable costs, so if homeowners were able to run power-hungry appliances during lulls when power was cheaper, it would both ease stress on the aging power grid and cut their bills substantially.

This is the aim of new power meter technology from Microsoft, which will compete with Google's PowerMeter, the first such solution to hit the market.  Currently, the system does not physically connect to your power meter or appliances -- rather it takes in input such as your power bills and home information and uses it to generate suggestions.

The project is still in its infancy.  Explains Michaeljon Miller, software architect for Microsoft Hohm, "The team's been sitting in a conference room on campus since about 5:30 this morning watching things spin up. Considering this is the first major web application that most of the team has shipped, things went extremely well."

With Google already partnering with power meter manufacturers and utilities and beginning to deploy smart meters, don't expect Microsoft to wait long before taking the project up another notch.  The project currently is only available in the U.S.

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If everyone...
By MrBlastman on 7/7/2009 11:13:21 AM , Rating: 3
Used this technology to maximize power usage around times where there were lulls in power to acquire cheaper power (either via staged activities or perhaps some sort of physical or chemical battery storage array to keep power for other parts of the day), then it would be safe to assume that power consumption would go up markedly during these lull periods thus nullifying the effectiveness of the technology?

While neat, I think it still would be more reasonable to consider using devices that are more energy efficient rather than trying to play the system of using power at certain periods during the day. Even a power storage array would be quite pricey yielding little gains for a long period of time considering the initial startup costs.

RE: If everyone...
By Diesel Donkey on 7/7/2009 12:00:56 PM , Rating: 3
Assuming it's a zero-sum game, an increase in power usage during slower periods would decrease usage in the high-usage periods. Everything should balance out. It seems like you're making the assumption that this technology would lead to more power usage during the slower periods while the high-usage periods remain unaffected. If everything balances out, the technology is effective.

RE: If everyone...
By MrBlastman on 7/7/2009 12:27:34 PM , Rating: 2
The point is - if it balances out - the low cost low use periods will equalize with the high cost high usage periods creating a net zero sum gain in money savings due to the low cost periods no longer being low cost.

If you know the power companies well enough, they are always trying to find ways to raise your costs - and, they will then no longer categorize the new median range as eligible for any savings - so, you'll be stuck back where you were before. Don't try to fight the monster by gaming the system that they are already masters of gaming. Instead, use less power overall and directly reduce your costs.

RE: If everyone...
By Diesel Donkey on 7/7/2009 12:43:53 PM , Rating: 2
I admit my ignorance when it comes to power company pricing policies, but my idea was that if the load does balance out then the cost of power during the high-use periods would decrease. But I suppose that wouldn't help if the cost during the low use periods increases, especially since it would become advantageous once again just to use power during the traditional higher-use periods.

From a monetary standpoint this technology does seem useless, but I'm sure there are benefits to reducing peak load on the power plants, unless they are more efficient at high load or something. At the very least there would be fewer brownouts.

I agree that using less power is a sure-fire way to reduce costs and bring about other positive effects, as well.

RE: If everyone...
By MrBlastman on 7/7/2009 1:38:03 PM , Rating: 3
I think leveling out the load is the goal of the power companies by providing incentivized pricing. It is in their best interests to reduce peak loading as it creates excess heat which leads to increased overall total inefficiency of power transmission due to atmospheric leakage, either via the heat itself or electrons. i.e. wasted electricity by making more - which raises the power companies costs due to the need to increase loading even further to meet the demand requirement - hence, eventual brownouts. Remember, heat is one electricity transmissions worst enemies to effeciency and also is a direct side effect of resistance to the flow of electrons in a line.

I could be wrong though, I'm not an EE. Now if only they could figure out a cost effective way to reconvert all that heat back into electricity and pump it back through the system without melting the lines...

Once they level their loads out though, the theory is they will then revert to the standard pricing model once more negating these original benefits.

RE: If everyone...
By Smilin on 7/7/2009 1:57:38 PM , Rating: 3
It's not just a matter of heat. It's really more a product of how the power is produced.

For example I live near a nuke plant. They can't spin that thing up during the day then spin it back down at night. It has to run at a relatively contant rate.

To make up for the shortcomings during peak hours other generation methods are brought online. These can be as extreme as diesel powered turbines. Whatever the method used it is a far more costly method to produce power.

RE: If everyone...
By MrBlastman on 7/7/2009 2:08:15 PM , Rating: 2
That too. Very true indeed. We had a nuke plant in southern GA shut down a few times back in June and it took several days to ramp back up to full capacity. They can't just start splitting atoms like crazy, it takes time so fluctuations in total usage leads to periods of wasted production they can not easily adjust the generators for.

RE: If everyone...
By Spacy on 7/7/2009 10:31:14 PM , Rating: 3
I am a Power Engineer in Alberta and I well tell you right now that this is a great idea. At night a number of power plants (Co-Gen and some coal) shut off. During the day there is not enofe generating capcity to keep up with demand and thereby drive the priceses higher. If we started to use more power at night and less for the day. Causing prices not to be driven as high to keep down demand. We will keep plants running at night that cost a good deal of money to start up and shut down. This well also reduce the need to build more plants to keep up with the day demand. Prices, well drop, for the cost of power but I only hope that the companies pass the savings on to us

RE: If everyone...
By Spacy on 7/7/2009 10:35:11 PM , Rating: 2
Sorry Grammer needs some work I know, but still my comment has points

RE: If everyone...
By Smilin on 7/8/2009 11:58:50 AM , Rating: 2
I'd +1 you just for the insight provided.

broken link
By rameshms on 7/7/2009 10:44:42 AM , Rating: 2
"try it now" link seems to be broken link.. here is the current link ""
should actually be

RE: broken link
By Brandon Hill on 7/7/2009 10:48:48 AM , Rating: 2
Thanks, the link has been fixed.

RE: broken link
By 67STANG on 7/7/2009 11:08:07 AM , Rating: 2
Still worthless however.

Apparently my utility provider "isn't partnered" with Microsoft, thus reducing the site to little more than facts and figures for other people. Awesome...

Another MS copycat scheme
By phatboye on 7/7/2009 12:47:07 PM , Rating: 1
If ms wants to grow they need to innovate and stop playing copycat as it is really getting old. I've yet to see ms bring any new ideas to the market in quite a while rather they thing they can copy someone else's idea and use their large reserve of cash to outspend the competitors. While they are constantly doing well in most of the markets that they enter they are always playing runner up to the competition. MS needs to get rid of their tired management and bring new blood to the table. New blood with fresh ideas who can bring ms back to the forefront of innovation instead of just constantly copycatting others ideas, throwing large amounts of money at such project in the end only to become number 2 in the market.

RE: Another MS copycat scheme
By Smilin on 7/7/2009 2:13:31 PM , Rating: 3
I think the "copy cat" concept is really a myth. MS just doesn't get a lot of credit for the innovations they produce. They are #1 in a lot of markets and it's the competitors playing catchup. Take a look at unified communications for example. They are crushing Cisco and IBM.

In this case MS has clearly been working on this since before Google announced anything so "copy cat" doesn't really apply. Google may or may not have beat them to the punch but do you want to bet which one comes out of beta first?

Keep in mind also that Microsoft has a good (not perfect) track record of entering and existing marketplace and out innovating the existing players. Word is an example. XBox is another.

RE: Another MS copycat scheme
By Shmak on 7/8/2009 5:38:14 PM , Rating: 1
Microsoft's innovation is a myth. When one hears the word innovation, one does not immediately make the jump to your chosen field of "unified communications" whatever that is. What one does think is perhaps of how MS "borrowed" from Apple's OS way back. Or perhaps how they "improved" Vista to "protect" your media from you.

It is pretty clear that the company does not innovate, it "leverages," using its vast resources to dominate a promising market as the poster above stated. Funny you mention the Xbox, as there is nothing innovative about it from the standpoint of the gamer. It is average. The Wii is clearly innovative. Even the PS3 is pushing new technology with Blueray. The success of the Xbox is due to the leverage Direct X has on the developer community, nothing more.

By boobot on 7/7/2009 10:52:00 AM , Rating: 4
sustainable biz model?
By 4smartgrid on 7/7/2009 6:22:33 PM , Rating: 2
Looking at some energy saving suggestions from Hohm, they are nice points but wouldn’t they be good to have regardless of the user’s energy consumption? Also does one need to continuously use the service once they learn and change their behavior? is it sustainable biz model, in other words

RE: sustainable biz model?
By rudy on 7/7/2009 11:37:08 PM , Rating: 2
Do they even make any money off of it? Personally I think it is just part of the company green image hey look what we are doing. The other option is they push it for free to consumers but have a longer term plan to integrate it with hardware and sell it to businesses as a cost saving solution and have some tasks automated.

The basic problem
By maxcue on 7/7/2009 12:51:30 PM , Rating: 1
No one's talking about what's really wrong: too many PEOPLE. All the newly-affluent nations, the 4 billion who have been born since I was, the next few billion, it all adds up. There is an optimum population density for any animal, including US, and we passed by it long ago. Until we admit, discuss and do something about that, the planet will shrug us off in many (to us) miserable ways.

RE: The basic problem
By Shmak on 7/7/2009 1:26:41 PM , Rating: 2
While overpopulation is a problem, I wouldn't call it definitively "wrong," here. Most known methods of active population control are not definitively "right". The "optimum population density" for human beings is unknown and impossible to measure. Whether the environment will be able to sustain our growing numbers is up to our ability to expand the resources available through technological advance. This is also a very difficult thing to predict.

Sure, you brought up the big problem. The reason people don't talk about it is because it is really difficult to solve. Its a hell of a lot easier to make a energy meter app.

Not much help
By bradmshannon on 7/7/2009 11:55:47 AM , Rating: 2
Didn't really tell me anything that I didn't already know. However, it did make me realize just how many regular light bulbs I have. I'll be replacing those when I get home :)

Why couldn't someone come up with a wireless monitoring system? You could put a wireless device in a outlet, then plug your device into that device, which would monitor the usage and send the data to a wireless data collector?

"I'm an Internet expert too. It's all right to wire the industrial zone only, but there are many problems if other regions of the North are wired." -- North Korean Supreme Commander Kim Jong-il

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