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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 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, 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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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.

"I mean, if you wanna break down someone's door, why don't you start with AT&T, for God sakes? They make your amazing phone unusable as a phone!" -- Jon Stewart on Apple and the iPhone

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