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Google Power Hardware Technology

Google Wants To Be Your Electricity Meter 206

Posted by samzenpus
from the google-watt-hours dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Google has teamed up with microcontroller maker Microchip to develop an API for a piece of software called Google PowerMeter, according this EE Times story. Why? Because Google wants to host all the details of the electricity and other energy consumption of people's homes. It wants to do this so that it can show people on their iGoogle homepages when and where they are consuming energy so that they can start to reduce their power consumption. The good news is that it is an opt-in service and free so you don't have to make Google your energy-monitor if you don't want to do so."
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Google Wants To Be Your Electricity Meter

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  • It's funny that this has little to do with your power bill since you only oay for the unbalanced load between phases. You can draw 40 amps from phase 1 and 50 amps from phase 2, but only get charged for 10 amps. I don't need google to tell me how to save money on my power bill!
    • Re:Blah blah blah (Score:4, Informative)

      by gtbritishskull (1435843) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @08:58AM (#31609336)
      What you said does not really make sense to me, and I don't know why you are talking about getting charged for amps. My power company charges me per kilowatt-hour, which is a unit of energy. Amps is just the current flow. The amount of power (and hence energy) being used depends on the voltage as well. I am not sure if what you said is actually wrong, but I am pretty sure it is.
      • by MrNaz (730548) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @09:01AM (#31609352) Homepage

        It's wrong because it violates the third law of thermofinancials: Bills are always created and can never be destroyed.

    • by Andy Dodd (701)

      [citation needed]

      You get charged for the energy you use, period.

      There may be EXTRA surcharges for unbalanced loading between phases, and for excessively reactive or inductive loads, but you don't get free electricity by drawing a balanced load.

      Note: Penalties on uneven/reactive loading of the grid are usually not assessed against home users, just large commercial facilities.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Indras (515472)
      This is absolutely wrong. The obvious flaw in your argument: 220V loads. A clothes dryer, for instance, creates a complete circuit between the two phases to provide the 220V necessary to run the load. Therefore, 220V appliances are ALWAYS balanced loads, requiring no neutral/ground to handle the difference. Are you trying to tell me that the power company does not charge you for electricity you use in 220 circuits?
      • by cayenne8 (626475)
        "A clothes dryer, for instance, creates a complete circuit between the two phases to provide the 220V necessary to run the load."

        Even my gas dryer?

    • Turn on your oven then check your meter. I'll wait... The meter is spinning isn't it? Your oven is a 240V resistive load pulling equally from both phases. By the way, phase is somewhat of a misnomer in household application because it's really a single phase with a transformer center tap (the neutral leg) that's tied to ground.
  • Microsoft too (Score:4, Informative)

    by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Thursday March 25, 2010 @08:02AM (#31608836)

    http://www.microsoft-hohm.com/ [microsoft-hohm.com]

    Who's following who?

    • by Nerdfest (867930)
      I'm not sure who was first, but the Google project has been around for a couple of years now. This is not really new 'news'.
    • by V!NCENT (1105021)

      But does the Microsoft one runs Linux?

    • Re:Microsoft too (Score:5, Informative)

      by InsertWittyNameHere (1438813) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @10:01AM (#31610018)
      They're extremely different.

      GOOGLE: "PowerMeter is free software that displays details of home energy consumption received from either a smartmeter or another electricity monitoring device."

      vs.

      MICROSOFT: "After signing up for Hohm with your Windows Live ID and Postal Code, you simply enter some information about your home (for example, occupants, appliances and systems) and you will receive your energy report with personalized recommendations. The more information you provide, the more accurate and relevant the recommendations will be."
      • I use MS-Hohm, and the purpose of it is the same as the Google offering - but instead of connecting to a smart meter, it wants to interface with your power company's billing system somehow. Unfortunately, neither my electric nor gas utility is affiliated with MS, so I have to pound in all my usage data by hand (easier than it sounds, but still more work than I'd like). You still do get a pretty good idea of your energy usage, but it's at the monthly level. The Google thing sounds like you'd get info in real

  • with, Google Valentine (TM)

    at this rate, we will come face to face with google apps even we go to take a dump in the loo someday ..... "Google wants to dump with you - Google Shit (TM)"

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Google Shit (TM)

      No need to wait, the future is now! Google Shit (TM) is already available under the code name Youtube(TM).

    • by delinear (991444) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @09:53AM (#31609934)
      Reading this, I figured Google were setting up the most ridiculously elaborate burglary scheme ever. They've cased the outside of your house with Google Earth, maps and street view. They know you've bought a big shiny new plasma TV via your search history and Google pay, and they even know where it's located in your house because of the Youtube video you posted of your sweet media setup. They also see you've been looking at holidays and now suddenly they can tell your electricity usage has dropped indicating you're away from home...
  • by sp332 (781207) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @08:02AM (#31608844)
    Google just announced an API for PowerMeter http://googlecode.blogspot.com/2010/03/google-powermeter-api-introduced-for.html [blogspot.com] , so Adafruit's Tweet-a-Watt can brag to your followers about your home efficiency. http://www.adafruit.com/blog/2010/03/04/google-code-blog-google-powermeter-api-introduced-for-device-manufacturers/ [adafruit.com]
  • Handy for DEA... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by couchslug (175151) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @08:03AM (#31608848)

    Now the Man can monitor consumption and infer when a weed growing operation is up and running.

    Note electricity consumption, cruise by with thermal cameras to verify, profit!

    • Re:Handy for DEA... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Hatman39 (1759474) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @08:12AM (#31608910)
      Well, they've been doing that for god knows how long, but not in the way you think. You see, most weed groweries bypass the meter so they don't have to pay gargantuan energy bills. So, instead the power company looks at the discrepancy between billing and consumption at the block level. If a large enough discrepancy is noted, i.e. something big, they inform the DEA. Note: I assume they do it like this in the USA, as this is how many countries (including my own) do it.
      • Re:Handy for DEA... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Lumpy (12016) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @08:36AM (#31609096) Homepage

        But that was with the old way of using Metal Halide that you needed 10 1000 watt lamps to grow with. Now with flouresent and LED setups you dont need a whole lot more.

        No I dont grow pot. I have a reef tank. Seeing my energy bill drop by $100.00 a month by switching to LED and FLouresent new tech fro mthe Metal halides I was using was really nice. It also has a side benefit of my corals are doing WAY better and I dont need to run a chiller anymore.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 25, 2010 @08:55AM (#31609310)

          I thought you said you didn't grow reefer?

        • wow, you caused me to google reef tanks. you have an impressive hobby.
        • That's interesting; I didn't know LED had the intensity for reef usage.

          • You buy the LEDs for the specific frequencies you need, notably red and blue. All other colors are filtered out by the chlorophyll in the algae of the polyps.

            BTW our eyesight is more sensitive to green, so those other 2 colors would look dim to us if power was equal between RGB LEDs.

            • That makes sense, given that LED (terrestrial) grow lights are pretty purple (or deep red or deep blue)

              I guess then it's commonplace to run a full spectrum fluorescent alongside those for viewing?

      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        You see, most weed groweries bypass the meter so they don't have to pay gargantuan energy bills.

        I doubt that; I've known several people who grew pot, and none of them bypassed the meter. Plus, they discovered a far more efficient way of lighting that uses about a fourth as much electricty and little heat, keeping their electric as well as heat signature footprints low.

        If a large enough discrepancy is noted, i.e. something big, they inform the DEA. Note: I assume they do it like this in the USA, as this is h

        • by SimonGhent (57578)

          You see, most weed groweries bypass the meter so they don't have to pay gargantuan energy bills.

          I doubt that; I've known several people who grew pot, and none of them bypassed the meter.

          I think what the OP was talking about was the more commercial end of the market, rather than an individual growing for their own use.

          What tends to happen is people take over (rent) a property and remove the internal walls, black out the windows and set up large growing operations, bypassing the meter. There was a disused shop near me (in the UK) where this happened... twice in six months!

    • the new folks at the EPA are seeing all sorts of new ways to leverage laws at their disposal to expand into areas where they don't belong. Believe it, when they find out that they can monitor with this much ease they will. We already have regulations against incandescent bulbs, how long before we have legislation against exceeding government defined thresholds for healing and cooling one's home? After all, just because you can afford below 78 in the summer doesn't mean you should be allowed to, think of

      • by Talderas (1212466)

        Bah, they'll use your children and your neighbors to pressure you in to behaving in their pre-approved way, and damn your freedom.

    • by tbuskey (135499)

      I wonder how often they crash a veggie grower's seedlings.

      I have a few racks of lights and over 50 tomato seedlings growing on a heating mat.

  • already exists (Score:5, Informative)

    by flok (24996) <mail@vanheusden.com> on Thursday March 25, 2010 @08:04AM (#31608858) Homepage Journal
    Such a thing (on-line electricity meter) already exists: Flukso [flukso.net]

    Linux-based with wifi uplink to the net and ethernet to configure it. Handles internet-connection downtime gracefully. Completely open so that you can tweak it if you wish to.
  • Already possible (Score:4, Informative)

    by TSchut (1314115) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @08:05AM (#31608866)
    There already exist devices which allow you to monitor your energy consumption by monitoring the dials in your meter box. For instance the dutch http://www.enymate.nl/artikelen/enymate_lite [enymate.nl].

    Because this measures consumption by looking at the dial it is also possible to monitor gas and water consumption, and the measurements relate directly to the upcoming bill(s).

    Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with the linked company.
  • ads (Score:2, Informative)

    by danny_lehman (1691870)
    they'll find a way to dynamically alter the ads we're shown using this thing now too
    • Google is not doing this out of the goodness of their hearts. There will be money to be made by them with this. Think of all the usage information they can gather up on people, they will know when you are home and when you are the most active. Information they can resell to advertisers and others.
  • by Viol8 (599362) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @08:14AM (#31608926)

    Check your electricity meter.

    Check it again the next day.

    Subtract the 2 values.

    Really , is this so difficult for some people that they need a gadget to do it for them?

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by TSchut (1314115)
      No, that's not hard. However, I suppose you want a finer grained time resolution, like 5 minutes or so. Otherwise it would be practically impossible to determine which apparatus is causing more-than-normal energy consumption.
      • by Viol8 (599362)

        "which apparatus is causing more-than-normal energy consumption."

        Hint - it'll be one of the big ones. Switch them off in turn and you'll find out. Unless you have 10 TVs and a dozen washing machines
        it won't take long.

    • by Lumpy (12016) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @08:38AM (#31609120) Homepage

      Actually yes. because your power meter is too inaccurate at small reading to give me a difference in 15 minutes. and when you are chasing down parasitic loads it's important.

      I use the TED5000 (The Energy Detective) works great, is dirt cheap, and gives me an energy data aggregate that is killer in every way. Plus having a Dollar amount in our faces on the counter every minute of the day really makes you pay attention to leaving the basement lights on all day.

      • by delinear (991444)
        It would also be a massive PITA if you wanted to track usage over a certain period of time, or the variation between seasons, or year-on-year usage, a service like this makes such data storage and calculations much more efficient (sure, we could all store the data and do the calculations and draw the graphs ourselves but it's much more efficient if a handful of people have already done this and then provide a tool to let everyone else benefit from their labours).
  • ...they don't run the site like this http://www.youtube.com/ [youtube.com]

    (ps. If youtube's main page no longer looks like Http/1.1 Service Unavailable then this gag is past its usefulness)
  • by anonymous cupboard (446159) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @08:20AM (#31608978)

    I seem to remember that elsewhere it was said that Google wanted to enter the power market. They are a pretty big consumer themselves and are apparently looking to be a supplier but as yet, are not a producer.

    Energy trading is a complex game. Perhaps they hope to get a better advantage by themselves getting better knowledge of how much power people are busing and when.

    • Don't they supply a lot of their own power? This could be something as simple as them trying to export tech they wrote for themselves in their data centers to monitor power usage to the masses. Throw a bit of advertising on there and they have made a piece of software written for their data centers provide additional revenue (in addition to whatever it helps them save by monitoring their own network). Why does it always have to seem nefarious? Seems like a simple re-purposing of a product to me. Seems
  • To see what it looks like in plain english try the Australian version of this :
    http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/etsa-plans-to-take-control/story-e6freo8c-1225697720719 [adelaidenow.com.au]
    .."added that people who did not take this option might find they would lose all power when power demand was running at peak levels."
    Why invest in fancy new power generation when you can ration a rust belt power network and tame the end user with gift of lower cost if they get chipped.
    Do you want Google and Enron ver 2.0 telling you whe
    • by gtbritishskull (1435843) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @09:13AM (#31609448)
      Actually, yes I do. Throughout the day the cost of power varies widely. At night it is dirt cheap (because it is produced at a coal or nuclear or hydro power plant) but during the day more plants have to be brought online and shut down as the load varies. That makes it very expensive at some times during the day. For residential consumers, this just gets averaged and they get pretty much a flat rate (some places have a time based tier system). But, if I got charged the current price for power, and could have my house decrease or increase power consumption based upon that price, then my cost would go down, and the total cost of the power grid would go down (because the load is more stable). I don't think they should have the ability to force me to turn off any appliance, but it would be good for the whole system if you let the free market determine the price of power through consumers setting their own limits of which appliances can be running at different price points.
  • Wrong wrong wrong (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DNS-and-BIND (461968) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @08:21AM (#31608994) Homepage

    "It wants to do this so that it can show people on their iGoogle homepages when and where they are consuming energy so that they can start to reduce their power consumption."
    Wrong, wrong, a thousand times wrong. Google is an advertising company. How the heck is an advertising company doing this?

    "The good news is that it is an opt-in service and free so you don't have to make Google your energy-monitor if you dont't want to do so."
    Well, isn't that nice of Google! I don't have to let them monitor my energy usage if I don't want to! Thanks for that, faceless corporation.

    • by nschubach (922175)

      Um... what qualifies Mitsubishi the ability to make TVs and cars! They can't do that because they have to pick a market!

    • Google is an advertising company that maintains its audience by providing a service (a search engine). In case you haven't noticed, Google also provides many other services that allow them to maintain their audience (gmail, wave, voice, ect). This is just another service they are providing that will allow them to get a bigger audience. It will also let them target an audience (environmental people) which means the worth of their advertising space goes up.
    • by D Ninja (825055)

      Wrong, wrong, a thousand times wrong. Google is an advertising company. How the heck is an advertising company doing this?

      Hate to break it to you, but most companies (of any size) do not just do one thing. Google is primarily an advertising company, but they do a lot more. And, if you think this is bad, don't go reading about PepsiCo (food), Disney (entertainment), Exxon (oil), or any other companies that you may think have only one market. You're in for a shock.

  • by SovBob (471280)

    This makes sense when you consider Google and their relentless pursuit of reducing [datacenterknowledge.com] their energy bill [slashdot.org].

    A lot of people have no idea how much electricity they are consuming, except at the end of the month. Increasing awareness will encourage people to turn off unused lights in their house (and get the instant gratification of seeing the electricity consumption graph go down on their homepage). This serves a dual purpose. Cutting down on consumption will mean a surplus of electricity, which lowers the price.

    • by Yvan256 (722131)

      Yeah, but why does Google need so much electricity in the first place? Enough to want every American citizen to lower their electric usage?

      I'll tell you why: Google are building a freakin' giant laser, that's why! They plan on attacking Planet Q42 with it!

    • It would also give you almost instant feedback of what is consuming the most power in your home. You could get a Kill-A-Watt meter, but how are you going to plug your furnace blower into it? Just cut the power to the blower, and see how much your power drops over the next 5 min. Same with other things that are difficult to measure or reach, like lighting, and ceiling fans. As you turn on/off items, you will see how it affects your power bill.

  • The good news is that it is an opt-in service and free so you don't have to make Google your energy-monitor if you dont't want to do so.

    Since when is this news at all? To say that it is would mean that it's different to normal, which implies that google regularly install monitoring hardware into people's homes as an opt-out service...

  • skeptical (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jonpublic (676412) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @08:42AM (#31609152)

    Am I the only one who is skeptical of these smart meter devices? I don't want hackers to be shut off my power or anything else.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      But, I would like the ability to shut down my power (or different devices based upon the current price of electricity). As with any online system, security is important. If you want to pay the higher power bill from using electricity you don't need, just so you can be positive your electricity won't get turned off by a hacker, then go ahead. You can also unplug your computer from the wall and be positive that your computer won't be hacked (and you can drive to or call the bank every time you need to tran
    • by swillden (191260)

      Am I the only one who is skeptical of these smart meter devices? I don't want hackers to be shut off my power or anything else.

      The meters just clamp a detector around your main. They have no ability to shut off or modify your power.

    • and after suffering another 4+ hour outage due to some idiot hitting a pole yesterday along with rolling blackouts because of an aging infrastructure, I've decided to go completely Solar and off the grid. This way I will have power when everyone else doesn't and can continue running my refrigerators, computers, lights, heating and cooling all year w/o worry.

  • But sometimes I think google is just another way to say NSA.
  • I think that all of google's noisemaking in the utilities area has very little to do with power and power consumption, and everything to do with Telecommunications. There was an announcment recently that Google was entering the Electric Utility business. Everyone was saying that google would be an electricity provider before long, but this probably has more to do with accessing the utlitiy easments for fiber than anything else. Google has made it clear that they intend to be a serious player in Telecom
  • by us7892 (655683) on Thursday March 25, 2010 @09:26AM (#31609616) Homepage
    Google already partnered with some utilities, and a few device makers (about 7 months ago). Most utilities are slow to provide opt-in to their customers. But anyone can install and watch their whole house power and consumption.

    For example, the TED [theenergydetective.com] installs at your house main. It happens to send data to Google PowerMeter in the cloud (an App Engine application it seems.)

    Right now, it is only one-way. Simply provides monitoring. Nothing can be controlled. You see your 10-minute average power in an iGoogle Gadget. As well as weekly and monthly total consumption, with a couple basic comparisons. In fact, the TED had an API, so anyone can read the second-by-second power readings and build your own charting application, or load a spreadsheet, or use the built-in browser to see gauges of power, etc. So, to make it easier for device manufactures to provide usage data (probably not just electric, but gas and water as well), why not a chip that can be embedded into your device designs.

    For those who have not seen Google PowerMeter, tinypic sample here [tinypic.com].
  • Wow, this is old news. Seriously, this was discussed over a year ago [nytimes.com]. In fact, I submitted this story to Slashdot way back then, but it was rejected. No Slashdot love for the Zebra. :-(
  • So, now Google will be able to tell that my power level is over 9000!?

  • Somehow, some rather strange people seem to think that with increased used of technology (as compared to, say, 1950) and a growing population that some sort of "conservation" is going to allow the US to keep going without building new base-load generating plants. We haven't built a major plant in decades and there are some plans but nothing being built now. Most of the plans have a huge gap of years in them already for "environment". So we aren't going to be getting anything new for a while.

    Florida has h

  • Are they doing house-wide meters, or individual outlet/appliance meters? Or both? Even having a whole-house meter logged like this would be terribly useful, my local power company does this to some degree, but they don't make the data easily exportable for more in-depth analysis--and if you want to do an hour-by-hour chart--forget about it.

    Unfortunately, I doubt my power company will be rolling out Google-compatible household meters to everyone in the near term.
  • "Good news is that it is an opt-in service, so you don't have to use iGoogle as you energy monitor."

    I thought my electric company did this pretty accurately, though they tend to charge more. Either I've missed something really big or the wording was badly phrased. Especially the part where it implies you have to have some type of personal energy monitor for your home.

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