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This is an example screenshot of Google's power meter software in action. The service, once it receives more partner support should eventually help reduce the stress on the grid and save users power bills by monitoring their usage and comparing it with grid demand for live information feeds.  (Source: Google.org)
Google distinguishes itself from the pack by offering its green grid meter service for free

DailyTech previously covered IBM's efforts to release a "green meter" which monitored the amount of electricity that small businesses use and equating it to green house gas emissions.  Now Google has joined IBM and others by releasing its own entry into the burgeoning grid meter market.

The new service from Google is called PowerMeter and it's free to both home and commercial users.  While this sounds great, there's one significant catch -- PowerMeter relies on others to provide the information it needs.  Google is hoping that makers of home electronics and appliances will add hardware which will feed the service information wirelessly.  It also needs utilities to provide it with grid metrics.

Kirsten Olsen Cahill, a program manager at Google.org, the company’s corporate philanthropy arm which developed the service, states, "We can’t build this product all by ourselves.  We depend on a whole ecosystem of utilities, device makers and policies that would allow consumers to have detailed access to their home energy use and make smarter energy decisions."

The new service, if it gains a hardware foothold, will offer homeowners their first chance to participate in a smarter grid.  Google is among the firms leading such efforts which seek to use existing resources more efficiently.

The service and others in the future may interface with the chips inside devices such as washing machines, dryers, and dishwashers to give users an ever-changing visual display of how much money it will cost to use the device at that particular time of the day.  Electricity charges are tied to demand, something most consumers never pay much attention to when it comes to power usage.  By using devices at times when demand is lower, users could potentially save a great deal of money, depending on their utility's policies.

Describes Rick Sergel, chief executive of the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, an industry group that sets operating standards for the grid in an interview with the New York Times, "They’ve been putting a chip in your dishwasher for a long time that would allow you to run it any time you want.  (These services) provide an opportunity to create dancing partners that will help the system balance itself."

The new meter could also be very useful for plug-in electric vehicles.  With GM and others preparing to unleash a fleet of electric plug-ins on the streets, advanced grid meters could allow for billing, at local recharging stations and could also help users and utilities work together to figure out the optimal time for daily recharges.  If the user leaves the car plugged in, the smart meter would help the power companies figure out the lowest demand time of the day and recharge the car then.  This would save the user money, while helping the utility by reducing the stress on its networks.

The new stimulus package which has almost passed through Congress should help further finance efforts such as Google's.  It includes $4.4B USD for "smart" power technologies, with money earmarked specifically for 4 million meters.  James Hoecker, a former chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which has some jurisdiction over transmission lines says the efforts will not only improve the grid, but will also create jobs.  He states, "You can hire a lot of people to install smart meters."



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wait what?
By mm2587 on 2/11/2009 9:18:28 AM , Rating: 4
so in order to help save power google wants to have all appliances equipped wireless transmitters. Those don't use any power do they? I know they certainly don't add to the complexity of the design.




RE: wait what?
By JasonMick (blog) on 2/11/2009 9:26:50 AM , Rating: 2
Compared with the amount of power used by the appliance, the smaller amounts of power used to send small amounts of data wirelessly should be orders of magnitude smaller, so it makes sense.

To give one example, many engineers' senior projects now incorporate wireless transmitters like Zigbee (sp?) that can run at low voltage/wattage on battery power. Or another good example is your phone, which obviously can't use much power.

The hardest challenge I see for Google is not getting these chips and transmitters into appliances -- this will already be happening starting with luxury items (some already have them). However, getting the utilities onboard will be a big challenge as the state of power utilities in America today is a messy maze, filled with red tape.


RE: wait what?
By JonnyDough on 2/11/2009 11:01:32 PM , Rating: 2
A better idea is to use wired transmission via your electric lines in your house. Having all your appliances networked was an idea I had years ago, and we can further reduce appliance costs/energy costs/environmental impact by using a central computer to run these appliances - rather than each appliance having it's own chip.


RE: wait what?
By Etsp on 2/12/2009 8:20:00 PM , Rating: 2
HAM radio operators would riot.... Ethernet over Powerline is extremely noisy...


RE: wait what?
By JonnyDough on 2/13/2009 3:59:46 AM , Rating: 2
That depends on the frequency you use, and if you can limit the circuit somehow. DSL is the same idea, it uses existing phone lines.


RE: wait what?
By Samus on 2/13/2009 12:42:39 AM , Rating: 3
Specially useful in California where those with crops in their attics, bedroom closets and basements can monitor their grow-op's power consumption ;)


RE: wait what?
By Fritzr on 2/18/2009 1:01:32 AM , Rating: 2
Been done many years ago. In the early days of PCs you could use your TRS-80, Commodore, Atari, or other home computer to computerize your home. Or you could use the stock control box.

Wikipedia page for X10 control
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/X10_(industry_standar...

Google search for many other webpages with similar info
http://www.google.com/search?q=home+control+power+...


RE: wait what?
By yacoub on 2/11/2009 9:27:39 AM , Rating: 5
alternately, i can just be responsible and only turn things on when they're needed and then any other items that run in the background are obviously necessary to do so. in other words, i already run my utilities very efficiently.
i don't need a big brother approach to sit over my shoulder and watch what i do (which will eventually become telling me what to do) even sold under the guise of saving me 5-15% on my electric bill. And the reality is since I already live efficiently, any potential savings for me would be at the 5% (or less) end of that range.


RE: wait what?
By HinderedHindsight on 2/11/2009 9:40:52 AM , Rating: 2
I think you're going a bit overboard in your interpretation of this idea. There are many program similar to this.

For example, the FRCA mandates that consumers are allowed one free copy of their credit report from each of the bureaus each year; in the way that Google's idea helps you to monitor electricity, this helps you monitor your credit.

Have you had anyone coming around to tell you how/what you should be doing with your credit in the "big brother approach" you describe?

This idea is just to give you better access to your own information. Many businesses pay for services that monitor all kinds of activity- monitoring and reporting services have seen a huge adoption push in IT. These technologies and services just help to reduce the human cost involved with collecting and logging data, and provide for better real time accounting.


RE: wait what?
By markdixon on 2/11/2009 10:03:19 AM , Rating: 2
From this data it would be a simple matter to profile when you're at home and when you're away. Do you trust Google to know that?


RE: wait what?
By HinderedHindsight on 2/11/2009 11:32:27 AM , Rating: 4
Many people already trust Google with more critical types of information: between using Google checkout for credit cards, to people using Google Apps (people pay for this service) to host business email and other services, through which many people receive electronic statements, and in some markets, can receive their electric bill via email.

Further, there are many ways for people to profile when you're home and when you're away. There are many other services which comes to your home in which the respective companies can build a similar profile.

The question here is not "can we trust Google with this info," but "can we trust business in general with this info?"

These days profiles can be built around every part of your daily life by someone at some company. The difference is, Google can use this service to provide you with much more info about your own electricity usage than the electric company, who at best gives you a daily average (which you can calculate on your own).


RE: wait what?
By wookie1 on 2/11/2009 12:37:12 PM , Rating: 3
It's always sold as a way to "help" you understand your usage. But then it just becomes too tempting to use a a tool to force behavior. The government wants to limit the amount of energy that is made available to consumers, so they will make you fit your life to their energy availability schedule or pay dearly. What, you work the night shift and have to use energy during the day - PAY UP! You've got a stay-at-home parent with toddlers at home running the AC in the summer - PAY UP! Don't forget the extra you have to pay to help the poor cover these increased costs.

Why would you want others to be able to know how much and when you watch TV, or run your washer, etc?


RE: wait what?
By HinderedHindsight on 2/11/2009 2:19:23 PM , Rating: 2
But this is Google- last I checked, this was a business entity and not the government. And last I checked, this was the United States, for some weird reason we seem to trust business more than government.

Further, see my argument regarding credit reporting: thus far no one who uses credit monitoring or accesses their free yearly credit report is told how to use credit or spend money. Banks do not tell people how to spend money when they issue monthly statements- these are all forms of monitoring. Why do you think that monitoring electricity at a more granular level makes you more vulnerable to Google than the entities who monitor your credit and money?

If you are truly concerned about forms of monitoring becoming a tool to control how you live your life, I would highly recommend you take all of your money out of your bank and deal only in actual paper money. They keep records of all your transactions, and may one day tell you how to spend your money!


RE: wait what?
By wookie1 on 2/11/2009 6:18:26 PM , Rating: 2
Once Google and more likely the utilities have this information (remember that Google needs the utilities as a partner), the government using it is one fillibuster-proof vote of congress away. Obama keeps talking about the smart-grid and how it can "encourage" you to use energy at cheaper times, here it is almost ready to go. How do you like waiting until 3am to run your washer and dryer? I know it will run automatically, but what if you have more than 1 load?

I want to keep the government out of my daily life wherever possible.


RE: wait what?
By JonnyDough on 2/12/2009 10:37:07 PM , Rating: 1
I want to stay off the radar as much as possible too. Lately I was fingerprinted because my gf's ex bf was at her place and I walked in the door cuz it was unlocked. Cops arrived, threw me in a car and didn't even talk to me. Now I'm in the system and I didn't even do anything wrong. How F'd up is this world? People are stupid. I'm staying a bachelor from now on and women are coming to MY house where I am in control.


RE: wait what?
By JonnyDough on 2/11/2009 11:30:39 PM , Rating: 1
Err, do you realize how retarded that statement is?

"This is a business entity and not the government."

LOL? The government and big business GO HAND IN HAND. Wow. Are people really this naive? Sad.


RE: wait what?
By lucre on 2/14/2009 8:04:44 PM , Rating: 2
One primary reason for our lack of trust in the government stems from the 19th century, when, during the un-memorable presidents (like harrison and hayes), leadership and philanthropy was more likely to come from business or your local city boss (who went hand in hand with business) than from the government. Following these years, one can note a trend of distrust between constituents and government. In events in the next century, the government proved to be both unreliable and unpredictable- look at the transition between taft and wilson, or the panic of 1907--
business is more reliable than government-
tomorrow, you have no idea what stupid idea a politician will come up with, but
tomorrow, you know every business anywhere will be looking to make money and better their reputation--

which has also led to business PR>government PR.


RE: wait what?
By lucre on 2/14/2009 7:55:44 PM , Rating: 2
Get a grip. If you are this concerned about government move to the caymans, just dont reveal anyone's banking information.
Seriously.
quote:
The government wants to limit the amount of energy that is made available to consumers, so they will make you fit your life to their energy availability schedule or pay dearly. What, you work the night shift and have to use energy during the day - PAY UP! You've got a stay-at-home parent with toddlers at home running the AC in the summer - PAY UP! Don't forget the extra you have to pay to help the poor cover these increased costs.

That is just flat out wrong, there is just no way to get around it. What the government cares about is
A. Getting elected/keeping their jobs
B. Keeping business happy, and comfortable here.

everything else is secondary, including suppressing and oppressing wookie1, by limiting his/her energy consumption.
Furthermore, use common sense. If half the people I saw spouting your rhetoric would use common sense, we wouldnt need such a large government.
If the gov. really wanted to know what/when you watched tv, they would talk to your tv provider. Similarly, if they wanted to know when you used your "washer" or whatever, they could track the taxes you paid and figure out what appliance you own, and watch for a specific spike in energy usage. The fact of the matter is, in the information age, information is not that hard to come by. Realistically, this would not make your day-to-day routines any more discoverable than they already are. Maybe if you could see past what I consider to be no better than conspiracy theories, you would know that.
Another point; you said something about increased taxes.
If the gov. does anything about this at all, as per my points before, they will either
A. be trying to save you money, or
B. be looking to encourage business in this sector.
With either of these options, increased taxes hurt the cause; and yes, I know the government screws up, ALL the time. But in an issue which affects the day to day lives of their constituents, government employees will be thinking of reelection, not hiking up your taxes just for the fun of it.

On the larger issue. someone was talking about how dumb a "big brother" approach was, and the post got a really high rating. Think about it, for 2 seconds. please. Why is there a need for smart-grids in america? thats all great and wonderful for you that you are smart about your
energy usage. But that is you, and the fact of the matter is that just because someone can, or that you do something doesnt mean the average person will. The reason we need a smart grid is not because we need a new tool for the government to use to screw over anybody, but because the AVERAGE person has other concerns than smart energy usage.

Common sense man. Its fine to be conservative, the foundations of our country are conservative. But please, think about an issue before you take a side, remember when one is analyzing behavior and predicting the future: the opinion comes after the consideration, I know its easy to get mixed up about that.


RE: wait what?
By spwrozek on 2/11/2009 10:01:45 AM , Rating: 4
You are not understanding how you pay for power and how you are charged and how this will help you.

Electricity cost different amounts at different times but you are charged one average price. So if you think 'oh I will run this at night to save money' you are not saving any money but for the utility.

With a smart meter you can be charged in real time. So when it cost 120 $/MWh in the middle of the day during summer you can know to turn stuff off and not pay high prices. Then when it drops to say 60 $/MWh at night you can dry your clothes and pay a cheaper rate.

Where that middle of the night drying would have cost you an average cost of say 90 $/MWh you now get to only pay 60 $/MWh instead.

The numbers are all made up btw but you really could save a bunch of money.


RE: wait what?
By Spivonious on 2/16/2009 4:34:57 PM , Rating: 2
BUT...once people start doing more at non-peak times, the peak time disappears and everyone's charged the same rate all the time.

As far as my own energy use, my local electric company already provides information on my energy use. Every month my house is off of the bottom of the chart compared to the "average home". I don't need further specifics. This is just Google trying to stay in the headlines.


RE: wait what?
By bldckstark on 2/11/2009 12:55:39 PM , Rating: 4
This would surely go as smoothly as the DTV changeover, don't you think?

About the only items that people use with a discretionary start time is their washer, dryer, and dishwasher. Dishwashers already have timers built in. Thermostats have multiple profiles, and I'm not waiting until 2a.m. to watch TV, turn on my lights, or use my computer(s).

Families don't do just one load of laundry each day, and having the thing start in the middle of the night means your clothes will be all wrinkled in the morning so everybody will have to re-start the dryer at the same time in the morning causing a demand surge that gets billed at the maximum rate.

Your clothes would sit in the washer until the next night at bedtime when you can do your next load. Have you ever let a pile of clothes sit in a washer for 24 hours? They stink when you take them out of the dryer. People would start to think we were French!

When everyone has an electric car, they will all be charging overnight, so that becomes a peak usage time as well. This is only a poor attempt at prolonging the obvious need for more power on a better grid.

I would love to see a system put in place where everyone is responsible for powering their own home. Fuel cells, solar, wind, nuclear, whatever, but eliminating the power companies would be a good thing. I want to start a group called PIMBY (PLEASE, in my back yard!)


RE: wait what?
By wookie1 on 2/11/2009 6:21:27 PM , Rating: 2
The option to power your own home is already there! You just can't afford it, nor can most of us as it is hideously expensive.


RE: wait what?
By Dephcon on 2/11/2009 9:27:57 AM , Rating: 2
Cell phones have wireless transmitters and they run off tiny batteries. Obviously the transmitter will only be on when the appliance is on and they can probably have it turn on/off to send updates at a specific interval to reduce power use.

I think this is a great idea but clearly its not going to happen overnight. This will take years to get going and even longer for consumers to switch over to compatible appliances.


RE: wait what?
By ksherman on 2/11/2009 11:09:11 AM , Rating: 2
I don't understand why they need the appliance manufacturers to add wireless tot heir appliances. Why doesn't google develop a simple device that reports power usage that you plug into the wall and then plug the appliance into the device. This would allow you as a consumer to purchase them for a wide variety of appliances without the need to buy new ones. Not to mention you could then plug them into TV, Stereo systems, computers etc etc.

Seems like a no-brainer to me... why would google rest the fate of this interesting software in the hands of the appliance manufacturers.


RE: wait what?
By cbmeeks on 2/12/2009 8:08:18 AM , Rating: 2
HA!

I was thinking the same thing. Also, more hardware means more manufacturing which means more carbon footprint.

Go Google!


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