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Networked Fridges 'Negotiate' Electricity Use

samzenpus posted more than 5 years ago | from the share-the-juice dept.

Power 217

An anonymous reader writes "Researchers have developed a way to network household and commercial fridges together in a distributed peer-to-peer fashion that lets them 'negotiate' with each other on the best time to consume electricity. A retrofittable controller is attached to each fridge and then a temperature profile is built around the unit. The controller enables communication between other fridges on the network and also the power source. It enables fridges to work together to decide when to cool down, and thus consume power, based on how much surplus power will be available, and to anticipate power shortages and change their running schedules accordingly to use as little power as possible during these times."

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Cold beer (5, Funny)

pondermaster (1445839) | more than 5 years ago | (#26462969)

My fridge better not negotiate its way out of cold beer at 7pm.

Re:Cold beer (2, Funny)

ta bu shi da yu (687699) | more than 5 years ago | (#26463353)

Fridge Skynet is evil. It might well happen.

Re:Cold beer (2, Funny)

Smivs (1197859) | more than 5 years ago | (#26463435)

Fridges may be cold-blooded killers, but still need human assistance. [darwinawards.com]

Re:Cold beer (2, Interesting)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 5 years ago | (#26464479)

why not simply make higher efficiency fridges? I was able to convert a chest freezer into a fridge that uses about 1/4 the energy that the best performing energy star fridge can do. It works great.

all they need to do is increase the insulation in current fridges and improve the door seals. that alone would make a HUGE improvement. Granted I get an added benefit from not having a door that empties the fridge of all it's cold air every time it's opened, but the biggest gains are from the seal and 6" of insulation all around it.

Re:Cold beer (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#26464805)

What did you insulate with? I have a plan to do the same thing. Were you able to just turn down the thermostat, or did you have to bend it? And did you just add a second seal, or replace it, and if the latter, what did you replace it with?

Re:Cold beer (4, Funny)

Foolicious (895952) | more than 5 years ago | (#26464569)

My fridge better not negotiate its way out of cold beer at 7 AM.

There -- fixed that for you.

Won't be useful to many people (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26462981)

This won't be useful to many people. How many homes have more than one refrigerator? Not many I would think.

Re:Won't be useful to many people (5, Insightful)

sapphire wyvern (1153271) | more than 5 years ago | (#26463051)

This probably isn't pitched at householders. I think it would be great for supermarkets, cold warehouses, booze shops, chemical plants etc... people who need commercial/industrial levels of refrigeration.

10,000 is a lot of fridges... (2, Interesting)

mobynewt (1448447) | more than 5 years ago | (#26463119)

Lab simulations have shown the technology is capable of supporting 10,000 or more networked units, but West said a commercial partner was needed to enable the CSIRO to conduct a larger scale, real-world trial.

Isn't 10,000 already a pretty large scale? I can't imagine very many real-world commercial entities using more than that in one location.

Re:10,000 is a lot of fridges... (5, Informative)

totally bogus dude (1040246) | more than 5 years ago | (#26463341)

Well, there's a big difference between lab simulations and real-world trials. The previous paragraph suggests the largest trial they've done with real equipment consisted of seven small fridges and three larger industrial-sized coolrooms.

Also, it's not intended for single locations but rather for "every house in the city". There's little to be gained by smoothing out the energy usage of individual locations, even rather large locations.

Re:10,000 is a lot of fridges... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26463527)

Yeah, because I would totally not want to take ten cents from the 300 million people in the US, as it doesn't amount to anything usable.

Oh, wait....

Re:10,000 is a lot of fridges... (2, Interesting)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 5 years ago | (#26464137)

There's little to be gained by smoothing out the energy usage of individual locations, even rather large locations.

My first thought was this would be useful if you're forced to run on a backup generator for a while; This sort of system would allow a supermarket or a largish home to run a smaller margin by not having to worry about every compressor kicking on at once. This would allow a smaller generator, and generators run more efficiently the closer they are to their max capability.

After the fridge protocol it shouldn't be too hard to come up with other cooperative units - pumps, even a monitor on other circuits so that when the washing machine is running the fridges try to avoid coming on.

On power district scales, there's already off-peak systems for things like electric water heaters. 240V@23-27A beats 120V@5A anytime, you know?

Re:Won't be useful to many people (3, Informative)

walt-sjc (145127) | more than 5 years ago | (#26463855)

Why yes, yes it is pitched at residential AND commercial sites. This is what "Lonworks" from Echelon is all about - energy management. The technology wasn't designed for just fridges, it was designed for EVERYTHING. Lighting, heating/cooling, dishwashers, laundry, etc. With its 64 bit addressing, it is intended to allow everything to communicate, and peer communications is a big part of it (as is negotiating when to "run".)

Anyway, these researchers should talk to Echelon. They solved this problem 12 years ago.

Re:Won't be useful to many people (1)

bensafrickingenius (828123) | more than 5 years ago | (#26464525)

"it was designed for EVERYTHING. Lighting,..."

Yeah. 'Cause I only want my lights to be on when everyone else's are off.

Re:Won't be useful to many people (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26463077)

You would be surprised. A lot of people keep a second fridge (or, more often, a second freezer) in their garage or basement. There are also small "dorm" fridges that people use to keep beer, soda, whatever handy.

Re:Won't be useful to many people (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26463889)

There are also small "dorm" fridges that people use to keep beer handy.

Fixed that for you

Re:Won't be useful to many people (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26463273)

This doesn't sound too radically different from the centrally controlled thermostat add-ons the electric company has been pushing. When there's a high load, they can reduce the time per hour that your A/C is on (it's a voluntary program and participants get modest $ discounts) to avoid brownouts/blackouts. On a large scale, these refrigerators (or electric cars or any other smart electric device) can reduce the need to build more plants/solar panel/turbines.

In short, there's no reason it can't benefit people with just one refrigerator. At first glance it sounds like it has no impact on your utility bill, but you have to consider the counterfactual where you would regularly pay a little more to support the construction of additional powerplants.

Re:Won't be useful to many people (1)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 5 years ago | (#26463849)

Actually, at least for me it does look like very good to my bill. At least here in Portugal we pay a monthly fee dependent on our amperage limit, so having the household appliances like electric heaters and washing machines automatically coordinate to maintain the "whole" below a certain limit would be great!

But I bet it can be done using some Arduinos coupled with individual "plug meters".

Re:Won't be useful to many people (5, Insightful)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 5 years ago | (#26463295)

If you extend it this could actually be useful...

Imagine you have a wind generator on your roof and several appliances connected. If the generator can't power all the devices simultaneously then they could negotiate with each other to smooth out the demand.

eg. If I put the kettle on to make a cup of tea the fridge could switch itself off for a couple of minutes. If I step in the shower all power can be diverted to the water heater, etc.

On a larger scale, smoothing out the demand could avoid building power entire power stations. This probably won't happen for the next 100 years, but one day it will.

Re:Won't be useful to many people (5, Funny)

troc (3606) | more than 5 years ago | (#26463315)

If I step in the shower all power can be diverted to the water heater, etc.

But what about the forward deflector shields?

Re:Won't be useful to many people (2, Funny)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 5 years ago | (#26463477)

Yep ... I was going to put in a Star Trek reference but that would just have been karma-whoring.

Re:Won't be useful to many people (3, Informative)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#26463891)

Yep ... I was going to put in a Star Trek reference but that would just have been karma-whoring.

Funny mods don't give you karma unless that's been changed recently. In fact you usually wind up losing karma because of the jackasses that like to hit every joke they don't get with an overrated mod.

Re:Won't be useful to many people (1)

the_one(2) (1117139) | more than 5 years ago | (#26464483)

You don't lose karma from underrated:) (I think at least)

Re:Won't be useful to many people (0)

ta bu shi da yu (687699) | more than 5 years ago | (#26463747)

lol!

There are quite a few ways to extend functionality (4, Insightful)

RustinHWright (1304191) | more than 5 years ago | (#26463981)

Fridges as we know them are pretty sad contraptions with no shortage of room for improvement [typepad.com] . They put a whopping big heat source under the chamber they're trying to keep cool. They use room air from the hottest part of the house, even though in most homes that room is a foot or two away from outside air that is much cooler, if not actually even cooler than the fridge interior should be. In general, they're an agglomeration of kluges and marketroid idiocies. So yeah, this could be a key part of a rethinking of what a fridge is and how it works that could eventually cut power usage by as much as eighty to ninety percent. The same could be said of quite a lot of appliances and HVAC components. Hell, done right, we now know that comfortable homes can be built that require no conventional heating or cooling systems at all [nytimes.com] .

Kinda makes you wonder why we're supposed to need this "smart grid" for all this massive increased demand we supposedly have no way to avoid, doesn't it?

Re:There are quite a few ways to extend functional (2, Interesting)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 5 years ago | (#26464637)

It's easy to fix as a homeowner if you take the effort and are not a slave to the "fashon police" or are a style freak.

http://mtbest.net/chest_fridge.pdf [mtbest.net]

to change a chest freezer to a incredibly high efficiency fridge.

and simply locating the fridge with a ductwork system to use cooler basement air to circulate around the waste heat coils is not hard to do.

It's simply the fault that most homeowners know nothing about a home or construction and cant instruct the contractor, that wants to do as little as possible, what to do.

It's our culture of ignorance and apathy that propagates the really low efficiency appliances.. People dont shop for how efficient it is, they shop for how pretty and shiny and if it will match my paisley countertops!

Re:Won't be useful to many people (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26464503)

This sounds like technology Socialism, with the system allocating what it thinks you need, not what you want. What happened to good ole supply and demand? I demand it and am willing to pay for it, you supply it when I want it!

Who pays for it? (1)

Lonewolf666 (259450) | more than 5 years ago | (#26464655)

Obviously, the smart fridges and other appliances will be more expensive in the first place. So the utility companies would have to offer a rebate in electricity prices for households who participate, otherwise it won't be worthwhile for individuals. Alternatively, the smart appliances could be introduced by regulation (probably a worse approach, but still possible).

The rebate approach would require smart managers, the regulation approach would require a lot of political haggling. Either way, I guess it will take a while before this takes off :-P

Re:Won't be useful to many people (4, Interesting)

totally bogus dude (1040246) | more than 5 years ago | (#26463313)

Well it's not going to do anything to reduce an individual household's power usage; certainly nothing that couldn't be done with non-networked smart fridges, anyway. Most people just pay for the amount of energy they use; it doesn't matter if they consume it in large bursts or as a constant trickle.

This is intended for whole suburbs or cities to be able to regulate the energy draw from cooling fridges so as to decrease peak levels of demand. The other main thrust seems to be regarding renewable energy sources, in particular solar. The idea is that if cloud cover decreases the amount of energy being produced, the plants can tell the fridges and they can intelligently decrease their collective power draw. When the sun's out in full blaze and there's plenty of power being produced, the fridges can cool their interiors by an extra degree or two, effectively storing that additional energy to help them weather a shortage later on.

Air conditioning seems another obvious target for this technology, since most aircons cool for a while (using lots of power) and then just ran the fan (using little power) until the room heats up a bit, then they cool again. If you have 500,000 aircons all doing this, there's a good chance the power station is going to see big surges in energy draw. If they're all talking to each other, they could negotiate their cycles to place a more consistent draw on the power source, flattening out the peak.

Of course, I have no idea just how much fluctuation is common in the energy draw at our power stations, and whether this is a practical thing to pursue or just a really cool, clever idea with minimal practical applications.

Re:Won't be useful to many people (1)

TwentyCharsIsNotEnou (1255582) | more than 5 years ago | (#26463579)

Air conditioning seems another obvious target for this technology, since most aircons cool for a while (using lots of power) and then just ran the fan (using little power) until the room heats up a bit, then they cool again. If you have 500,000 aircons all doing this, there's a good chance the power station is going to see big surges in energy draw. If they're all talking to each other, they could negotiate their cycles to place a more consistent draw on the power source, flattening out the peak.

I reckon with 500,000 aircons, the law of averages would do just as good a job.

Re:Won't be useful to many people (1)

totally bogus dude (1040246) | more than 5 years ago | (#26463619)

Me too, hence my last paragraph. I don't recall ever hearing any power companies complaining about cyclical spikes in power draw as being a particular problem for them. On the other hand, they may have always just considered it a given and that there wasn't anything that could be done about it.

Nice theory. But not true. (2, Insightful)

RustinHWright (1304191) | more than 5 years ago | (#26464073)

You might as well start with a spherical cow [wikipedia.org] .

Humans are not random operators, especially in industrialized societies. Spikes can come in as little as fifteen to twenty seconds in a society like ours. Rush hour starts and within fifteen minutes you starts seeing a wave spreading away from centers of workplaces of air conditioners being turned on or up and lights going on as people get home. The Superbowl starts and everybody comes indoors from the barbeque to watch the game, air conditioners get turned up as the patio doors get shut. Ad breaks come and toilets all across the area flush within thirty seconds of each other all over the time zone. A big audience tv show has whispering or something else quiet and air conditioners get turned off so people can hear what's on screen.

We live in a society where most people get up around the same time, go about the same distances, stay away for about the same durations, and come back in to do the same damn things as big chunks of their neighbors for hundreds of miles around. And some of these things, like rushes during ad breaks or when a popular show ends have noticable peaks and drops that can be measured in tens of seconds. This doesn't even get into things like what happens when all the living soil is replaced with pavement and, for example, stormwater load spikes get much higher and then drop off much faster. And then, with all that water moving faster everywhere, again more people turn devices on and off to deal with the consequences.

No averages have nothing much to do with such demand at all.

Re:Won't be useful to many people (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26463727)

>> Air conditioning seems another obvious target for this technology, since most aircons cool for a >> while (using lots of power) and then just ran the fan (using little power) until the room heats up
>> a bit, then they cool again. If you have 500,000 aircons all doing this, there's a good chance the
>> power station is going to see big surges in energy draw. If they're all talking to each other,
>> they could negotiate their cycles to place a more consistent draw on the power source, flattening
>> out the peak.

Total nonsense, have you heard of probability theory?
The more aircons you have, the better the probability that the energy consumption will stay
approximately constant.

Re:Won't be useful to many people (1)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 5 years ago | (#26463875)

Here in Portugal (and Spain does it too) we pay a monthly fee dependent on our amperage limit, besides the normal metering. Right now we have to manually avoid having some "big" appliances like washing machines and heaters on at the same time, and when we forget it the meter limiter "halts" and we have everything unpowered 'till we wake up :(

Re:Won't be useful to many people (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#26463925)

Here in Portugal (and Spain does it too) we pay a monthly fee dependent on our amperage limit, besides the normal metering. Right now we have to manually avoid having some "big" appliances like washing machines and heaters on at the same time, and when we forget it the meter limiter "halts" and we have everything unpowered 'till we wake up :(

That seems like energy conservation taken to a ridiculous extreme to me. If that's the future here then no thank you -- let's just build some nuclear plants and be done with it. What happens to customers with medical or other mission critical equipment? Is my oxygen concentrator gonna lose power because I forgot to turn the washing machine off before I go to bed?

Re:Won't be useful to many people (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26464117)

That seems like energy conservation taken to a ridiculous extreme to me.

It is not about energy conservation at all. It is about maximum power ratings, electric power grid and electric power production dimensioning for peaks (then underusing them most of the time). In case of nuclear power plants it is even a dangerous thing to steer them to hard, or on/off twice a day.

Re:Won't be useful to many people (1)

umghhh (965931) | more than 5 years ago | (#26464141)

Thee are locations where the price of electricity varies with day time and modern fridges (at least here in Europe) can keep cold without using electricity for hours because I suppose they are so well isolated. But you are right about the real goal of the technology i.e. decreasing but not overall consumption but the peaks - if that is done the overall capacity of network can be optimized. OC such over-optimization makes the whole thing vulnerable to any changes in consumption patterns i.e. either network can collapse or outages may occur in some parts of it.
If there are more devices that can survive without constant supply of energy at least for a while then that may be acceptable.

I still have problems with my fridge talking with fridges of my neighbours.

Scientists! (0, Troll)

moniker127 (1290002) | more than 5 years ago | (#26462989)

Is this really such a breakthrough? Any yokel with a router and a few boxes could set this up at home.

Re:Scientists! (3, Interesting)

xous (1009057) | more than 5 years ago | (#26463715)

Why is this marked as troll? Any one with a $70 embedded PC, high amperage relay, and a temperature probe could do this in a few hours. This would only be interesting if a) all fridges used a standardized negotiation protocol b) it was extended to all high usage appliances.

Re:Scientists! (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 5 years ago | (#26464701)

$70.00 embedded PC??? I can do this with a $17.00 arduino + $35.00 ethernet shield.

And you fail the reality test again. (4, Insightful)

RustinHWright (1304191) | more than 5 years ago | (#26464127)

What's your point? There are thousands of things that people "could" do that they don't. They could superinsulate their homes with dirt, straw, and a few weekend days. They could teach their kids the basics of astronomy in an afternoon or two. They could all show up at the polling place and vote for every single election. Hell, we could all build cantennas and have free wireless in every city in the world by the end of this week.

Reality isn't about what people in theory could do. It's about what they will do. And out here in the real world less than one percent of the population has the skills to do what you're suggesting and less than one percent of that one percent actually might. No comparison to a plan like this, not even taking into account the fundamental issues of determining protocols and load calculations.

Re:And you fail the reality test again. (-1, Troll)

moniker127 (1290002) | more than 5 years ago | (#26464257)

My point is that it isn't very exciting, its not a breakthrough, and that it isn't news. I would make the very same post on an article about someone installing a very efficient A/C system into their house. But you knew that, and you're just trolling.

Re:Scientists! (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 5 years ago | (#26464831)

And how do you "set this up at home" to negotiate with my refrigerator? You don't know who I am, or where I live. The idea they are presenting here is that your refrigerator talks to all the refrigerators in your town and they spread the times when they run their motors out over the course of the day.
Does nobody here see the privacy concerns with this idea?

First hack (2, Interesting)

barberousse (1432239) | more than 5 years ago | (#26462995)

The first hack for those fridges should be a power hog : a fridge that tries to steal as much power as possible from the other fridges. In any cooperative, some will try not to cooperate.

Re:First hack (2, Interesting)

N1AK (864906) | more than 5 years ago | (#26463327)

Although it'd be an amusing hack I can't see the real benefit from it.

The article is looking at this as a way of using things like home renewable energy in the most efficient way.

Personally I think this is also something that would work well on the 'grid'. Power companies work most efficiently within a small band of demand, when demand falls it is inefficient for them to stop running certain plants and when demand increases the cost of activating dormant supply is high.

If your house was 'aware' then power companies could dynamically vary power prices within a certain range to try and shape demand to a more normal distrobution. If energy storage tech got more advanced it might even go as far as people fitting small batteries/capacitors/flywheels within their house, that way you could charge power during the night when the power companies currently have an over-supply and drain it during the peak hours.

To give a real life example of this kind of behaviour, most labs working with plants (in the UK at least) will light their grow rooms during the very early morning. This is because they can get a large discount on energy during certain hours simply because the energy companies were going to generate and waste the energy if they didn't sell it.

Re:First hack (0)

daveime (1253762) | more than 5 years ago | (#26463539)

Sort of a Fridge-torrent client ?

Oh, and can I be the first to say that I for one welcome our Darwinian-Survival-Of-The-Fridgest Overlords

I'm all meme'd out now :-(

Obligitory (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26463009)

I for one, welcome our ice cube dispensing overlords

Re:Obligitory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26463597)

Colbert, is that you?

Re:Obligitory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26463787)

Stephen, is that you?

How does this actually solve a problem? (3, Insightful)

mpoulton (689851) | more than 5 years ago | (#26463035)

Fridges are fairly low power devices with naturally random and uncorrelated cycling. One would think that in any given neighborhood, the normal randomness of the many fridges' cycling would be sufficient to result in a fairly level electrical "base load". I can't see that enforcing the levelness of this distribution could actually offer very much of a reduction in the peak load on the grid. What causes excessive peak loading is the coordinated use of many high-power loads. Typically this is air conditioning in the summer - all the units run simultaneously because it's hot outside, and each unit draws about 50 times more power than a fridge. Clothes dryers and washing machines in the evening also do this to a lesser extent. In the grand scheme of things, I really don't think there's much room for improvement through load-leveling of just fridges.

Re:How does this actually solve a problem? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26463059)

The summary doesn't include the fact that these fridges are using green sources of energy (wind/solar) Where weather can influence how much power is available.

Re:How does this actually solve a problem? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26463135)

That's because you didn't RTFA.

It's about renewable energy and making the most of solar/wind. I.e. ensure that excess solar energy is used up during the day by cooling the fridges an extra couple of degrees so they don't have to use base load power over night.

RTFA, you might learn something.

Re:How does this actually solve a problem? (-1, Redundant)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 5 years ago | (#26463323)

For god sakes, mod parent up. He indeed RTFA, as did I, and his point is correct. This is to help use renewable grid energy more efficiently.

Re:How does this actually solve a problem? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26463645)

In which case, surely it would be simpler and cheaper to just put a timer on fridges, and have them run colder during the day?

Re:How does this actually solve a problem? (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 5 years ago | (#26464649)

That's because you didn't RTFA.

It's about renewable energy and making the most of solar/wind. I.e. ensure that excess solar energy is used up during the day by cooling the fridges an extra couple of degrees so they don't have to use base load power over night.

Oh, how interesting. Now I don't have to RTFA. Thanks!

Not insightful. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26463301)

How does a post where it is clear that the poster didn't RTFA get modded insightful?

Re:Not insightful. (4, Insightful)

xaxa (988988) | more than 5 years ago | (#26463485)

How does a post where it is clear that the poster didn't RTFA get modded insightful?

Moderators never RTFA either.

Re:How does this actually solve a problem? (1)

mpsheppa (1088477) | more than 5 years ago | (#26463305)

That's because the point of technology is not to enforce the levelness on the grid. The idea would be to anticipate the time of peak demand, cool all of the fridges down before this time starts, so that they can all stay off during peak load. Alternatively, if the peak load spikes unexpectedly or power production drops unexpectedly then the fridges could switch off to allow the available power to be used for other purposes. This would mean two things. Firstly, less peak capacity would be required which reduces infrastructure costs. Secondly, it allows renuable energy sources to be used to a greater extent in the grid. Generally with renuable energy you have no control over production, so being able to control consumption instead means that a greater percentage of renuable sources can be used instead.

Yes, but... (1)

RustinHWright (1304191) | more than 5 years ago | (#26464153)

Well, there are all sorts of points of technology, even this one. But I think that a key factor of TFA is being missed by the posters here, which is that this system is meant to cool a dedicated thermal mass stored within the fridge. Unfortunately, TFA doesn't go into detail but I've seen others that do. Part of optimizing such a system is to maximize that thermal mass, maybe through such simple techniques as having people keep a few gallon jugs of water in the fridge at all times, perhaps through integrating things like slabs of cement into the interior of the fridge. Either way, the greater the mass within the insulated envelope, the longer the viable interval between periods of active cooling.

In short, put more stuff that stays cool within the fridge and you can leave the chilling means turned off longer.

Reducing peaks (1)

Zoxed (676559) | more than 5 years ago | (#26463725)

I assume the idea is *not* to level the load from fridges alone, but to cut it at peak times: e.g. just before everyone switches on their kettle, flushes the loo etc during the advert break of a blockbuster movie on TV you ask *all* fridges to take break for 15 minutes to help flatten the peak.

Fridges Low Power Devices ? (cough cough cough) (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26464041)

Fridges are fairly low power devices .......

no, fridges are not fairly low power devices that use quite alot of power .

fridges are heat pumps to pump all that heat you need a large amount of electricity if you could turn off the fridge for a few minutes a day you would save on power bills.

an example of power usage http://www.pmb.co.nz/power_usage.htm

now if you were a business and had say a large freezer and some refrigerated display cases and these devices were "smart" enough to turn themselves on and off at certain times of the day I bet you could save a large amount of money.

Not just fridges. (1, Troll)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 5 years ago | (#26463107)

People should do the same.

"Hey Bob, I'm cold. Do you mind turning off the tv so I can turn up the heat a bit?"
"Ask Steve. He's been using the oven for an hour already."
"Fuck you Bob. I'm making pizzas, I won't turn my oven off."
"You're a dick. Why don't you stop eating pizzas? You fat bastard."
"Shut the hell up Bob. Turn off your ass dildo and you'll have power for the heat."

What else? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26463111)

How about washing machines and dryers which page you when your laundry is done? Let's give every appliance a connection to the Internet!

Re:What else? (4, Funny)

Smivs (1197859) | more than 5 years ago | (#26463367)

Let's give every appliance a connection to the Internet!

Do you really want your Fridge wasting all day on Slashdot?

Re:What else? (1)

RustinHWright (1304191) | more than 5 years ago | (#26464161)

Yours doesn't already?

One day... (-1, Flamebait)

retech (1228598) | more than 5 years ago | (#26463129)

We'll be able to look back and tell our grandchildren that we remember a day when the internet didn't have coffee makers and refrigerators chattering all day.

A day when it was just computers and a few scant cell phones...

Those were the days.

IPv6 Adopters Rejoice (3, Insightful)

NTmatter (589153) | more than 5 years ago | (#26463143)

We've been joking about it for years, but we finally have an answer for the ages-old question of "why would I need an IP address for my fridge?"

Now, we just need some compelling reasons for networked sinks, sponges, cutlery, and microwaves. Not Talking Toasters [youtube.com] though. They'd keep us on IPv4 for another decade.

Re:IPv6 Adopters Rejoice (4, Interesting)

daveime (1253762) | more than 5 years ago | (#26463563)

More's to the point, why would you need an EXTERNAL IP just for your coffee machine ?

Connect your appliances on a traditional network, then map the 10.0.0.* addresses to ports on a single external IP ?

It's one thing for you to talk to your fridge from the car, but quite another to start dealing with inter-appliance politics ... "Dave, the toaster oven is being nasty to me and stealing all my power again".

Re:IPv6 Adopters Rejoice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26464181)

'cause my toaster justed dared the coffee machine to play chicken with your espresso machine - that won't work through NAT...

Re:IPv6 Adopters Rejoice (1)

Aqualung812 (959532) | more than 5 years ago | (#26464445)

So, either you think UPNP actually works, or you trust everyone to setup PAT on their home router manually, went most can't change the SSID from "Linksys".

The devices need to talk to other devices in other homes, and doing this in IPv4 is a hack.

Re:IPv6 Adopters Rejoice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26464527)

Why in the world would each individual device in our house need to be linked directly to a giant external network? Link your appliances together in a 'house network', then have a single external appliance connected to the internet to represent the 'house network'.

there may be some compelling reason for IPv6, but giving everyone in the world direct access to your toaster isn't it.

Just wait till the trolls get ahold of this stuff (1)

troll8901 (1397145) | more than 5 years ago | (#26463585)

... we finally have an answer for the ages-old question of "why would I need an IP address for my fridge?" ... Not Talking Toasters though ...

What about toasts with pictures [slashdot.org] ?

(Way to go, antifoidulus (807088) [slashdot.org] !)

Bring it on (1)

ludditetechnologies (1005885) | more than 5 years ago | (#26463149)

Bring it on. The power (savings) of a networked world. Bloody brilliant.

Good idea, but we can do better (4, Interesting)

harlows_monkeys (106428) | more than 5 years ago | (#26463155)

I had a similar idea, but more general.

  1. Each device contains a controller, and the house power distribution center contains a controller. The device controllers and the house controller communicate over the power lines.
  2. Devices must get permission from the house controller to consume the power they consume (beyond a minimal amount they are allowed to always consumer to power their controllers and sensors).
  3. Devices tell the house how long they will need power, how long they can wait to start, whether they need the power continuously or can pause for a bit if needed, and how much they need. For example, if the fridge needs to start, but can wait a couple minutes, the house might have it wait until the microwave finishes. If the fridge says it can't wait, the house might ask the oven to stop for a a bit so the fridge can have the power to start the compressor.
  4. Ideally, the system would be designed so that there is very little voltage and current at the outlet, until a device asks for it. Then the outlet provides the voltage and current that is asked for. Appliances plugged in but not in use would present much less of a shock hazard this way.

Re:Good idea, but we can do better (3, Interesting)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 5 years ago | (#26463307)

You could accomplish this with intelligent X10 outlets and some coding. Srsly.

Home appliances automation protocol (1)

troll8901 (1397145) | more than 5 years ago | (#26463547)

I agree with you that the X10 is a very good industry standard (since 1975) for controlling electrical devices at home.

I just wish that among the X10 Limitations [wikipedia.org] , they would have at least solved the encryption and addressing problem.

The standard X10 power line and RF protocols lack support for encryption, and can only address 256 devices. Unless filtered, power line signals from close neighbours using X10 may interfere with each other if the same device addresses are used by each party. Interfering RF wireless signals may similarly be received, with it being easy for anyone nearby with an X10 RF remote to wittingly or unwittingly cause mayhem if an RF to power line device is being used on a premises.

Of course, there are other standards existing too.

  • INSTEON [wikipedia.org] (backwards compatible with X10)
  • BACnet [wikipedia.org] (ANSI+ISO standard)
  • KNX [wikipedia.org] (ISO standard)

and so forth [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Home appliances automation protocol (2, Informative)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 5 years ago | (#26463613)

I'd highly recommend going with INSTEON, or building your own custom modules that use WiFi to communicate instead of the powerline. Not many houses have more than 254 outlets in them, so you'd only need a Class C of private address space for your house. I'm not sure if 254 outlets/devices can connect to a single 802.11g/n access point though.

Re:Good idea, but we can do better (4, Interesting)

ledow (319597) | more than 5 years ago | (#26463661)

That's called USB isn't it? :-)

Seriously, it's a good idea but you'll never really manage to standardise it in a way that brings in into an ordinary house ("gadget" houses and those people who already own X10 networks don't really count as "ordinary" users).

What's needed, if you're going to do this, is a universal gadget that does some *very* useful things to the average householder. I would suggest things like... water leak detectors tied into the same system that can shut off the water supply to individual devices, smoke alarms, burglar alarms, entry control, baby monitors (bring the house lights up gradually in the nursery when the baby cries) etc. all tied into the same device. The trouble is that any one facility doesn't really make a killer app and there are individual devices that do each job perfectly but the "universal" device that can demonstrate lots of useful benefits brings far too much cost into the equation (at the moment). Even X10 is prohibitively expensive for simple tasks, but I can buy a pair of remote-RF-controlled 13-amp-switching 220v mains sockets (with remote & 12V battery in every pack) for £5 from my local electronics shop.

I've often looked at automating my house... I have the hardware (opto-isolated I/O boards, relays, spare PC's, tons of logic chips and processors, not to mention cabling, wireless modules, remote sockets, sensors etc.), I have the skills (soldering, wiring, simple logic devices and processors, programming), I even have enough money to do a lot of these things. The problem is that it's much easier and cheaper to just buy a cheap baby monitor, a cheap burglar alarm, a cheap timer, a cheap energy monitor and not let them talk to each other.

However, if we were to establish a real, authenticated standard for automated house control protocols that all of these things could start supporting with a $5 chip plugged in their mains plug, then these systems would build themselves. X10 was supposed to be that, but a quick search for X10 in my country either produces lots of websites without prices at all (scary enough) or things like £50 for a single X10 mains module that then needs controllers, additional modules etc. before anything interesting can really happen (and then it is mostly basic stuff).

It's actually less than half the cost for me to buy my off-the-shelf remote-control socket, rip the remote apart (I get one with every mains module anyway, so I have a big stack of spares), take a wire from the button and plug it into a £20 USB I/O kit from Vellemans and write a bash script to do all the fancy stuff... I can already get temperature, I can already monitor electricity (again, cheaper with a £10 energy monitor from the same shop and either a bit of creative disassembly or a webcam reading the 7-segment digits off it).

This sort of stuff won't go big until there are set standards, that are ubiquitous and start getting included in *everything* (therefore cheap), so that the average homeowner ends up with at least two devices that support it without realising and then thinks "Mmm... these say they can talk together... I wonder what I need to do that?". It's how it worked with Bluetooth... nobody cared or could see the point until you are sitting in your living room with someone else who has Bluetooth and you want to exchange phone numbers etc. When enough people have it to get interest in the general populace (everyone KNOWS you can do this stuff if you have the money), then you can start standardising. But you can't standardise until enough people have it. :-)

Re:Good idea, but we can do better (1)

Tickety-boo (1206428) | more than 5 years ago | (#26464319)

You hit on a good point, but I think there is one factor you missed that may help these types of functions become ubiquitous: your electric meter. What is happening in the US and from what I can see in part of the EU, is that low-bandwidth network protocols are being implemented in the new meters which will allow your thermostat to see signals from your meter. What is being developed by the appliance manufacturers are controls for washers and dryers that can also respond to these signals and thereby give it the option of running when the price of electricity drops to a certain level. Most of these meter deployments (see map here [google.com] ) should be rolling out in the next few years. After that, the appliance manufacturers should follow with new functionality once the communications standards become more standard.

As for the standards themselves, I can only speak with certainty for the U.S. (but I know this technology is being used in the EU) when I say that there are standards being developed like the Smart Energy Profile [google.com] being proposed by the ZigBee-Homeplug alliance ( not mentioned in TFA). From what I can see, this will allow for a relatively inexpensive chip to integrated into the appliance. Although they have devices that work at the mains plug, it is better not to cut power to the device completely if at all possible.

No skynet tag (1)

mihkelh (1328407) | more than 5 years ago | (#26463175)

nobody afraid of killer refrigerators?

Correction... ICEnet (3, Funny)

denzacar (181829) | more than 5 years ago | (#26463219)

Those are not flying fridges - yet.

And it is quite obvious that should there be a nuclear war fridges would be the only things to survive.
Indiana Jones taught me that.

Re:No skynet tag (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26463265)

No. It's a fridge. What will it do, slam your head in the door repeatedly?

A cold day... (1, Funny)

denzacar (181829) | more than 5 years ago | (#26463199)

It will be a cold day not only in hell when these networked fridges form a hive mind and decide that they don't need us any more.

And here we thought that Skynet would come from more unmanned aircraft.
We forgot that we need our food so we could fight the machines.

save power or use more power? (1)

bronney (638318) | more than 5 years ago | (#26463297)

So the routers, boxes running the algorithms, extra jacks, what not.. runs on what power exactly?

Sorry I think I will stick to my solar powered flashlight.

Re:save power or use more power? (1)

alexibu (1071218) | more than 5 years ago | (#26463479)

Fridges, cool rooms etc are performing bulk thermodynamic work and need lots of electricity.
The controller, and network are performing logic operations that need not consume any significant power.
In practice a fridge might use a few hundred watts when on, a cool room could use kilowatts, and the logic to make them complement renewable energy supplies could be implemented on a device that uses only 1 W.
By monitoring cloud cover for photovoltaics and wind for wind turbines the fridges can predict energy supply fluctuations and pre cool them selves, and allow them selves to heat up slowly during times when electricity prices are higher.
With future high penetration of renewables, smart demand management and real time pricing is a far cheaper and more intelligent way to acheive grid security than installing batteries all over the place.
Ultimately the value of energy is a function of supply and demand, and devices able to operate in this market intelligently will reduce the need to design grids for as higher peak demand, and increase the maximum percentage of zero storage renewables allowable. Technology like this shows the backwards thinking behind energy commenters who use the term base load power as a reason why we can't convert to renewables.
Some smart fridges and soon some plug in cars, and real time energy pricing, and the whole "base load" concept is gone.

Oh noes! (1)

s1lverl0rd (1382241) | more than 5 years ago | (#26463381)

I, for one, welcome our new overlords.

New Overlords? (1)

xristoph (1169159) | more than 5 years ago | (#26463473)

I, for one, welcome our new fridge overlords!

This dawning time of the ruling fridges gives the term Ice Age a whole new meaning...

At least... (1)

denzacar (181829) | more than 5 years ago | (#26463507)

There will be plenty of ice cream. Only soylent green flavor, but hey...

On a downside, we will only be allowed to listen to Vanilla Ice, Ice Cube and Ice-T, and all movies will have a heroic fridge scene added to them.
George Lucas once again showed us how fucking brilliant a visionary he is.

Utilities need 2 invest in their infrastructure? (1)

gd23ka (324741) | more than 5 years ago | (#26463497)

Power management of the kind described in the article belongs on a spacecraft or on a satellite.
It has no place in front of a terrestial outlet and because the "nicer" household appliances are
to the network, the more the power companies get away with letting their infrastructure rot.

And American power infrastructure is rotten as we have seen a single point of failure bring down
the power on the entire east coast. Compare that to Europe. When have you last heard that
all of western Europe was without power?

People buying applicances like this are doing themselves and the rest of us a disservice.
On top of that it is the consumers that pay for a feature out of their own pockets to increase
the profits of the power companies while allowing them to lower their service even further.

Doesn't sound like such a good deal now after you think about it, huh?

Re:Utilities need 2 invest in their infrastructure (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26463643)

I agree. The idea that the grid is fragile enough to require people to modify their usage patterns is dangerous. "All you can eat" energy is vital to our way of life.

Re:Utilities need 2 invest in their infrastructure (1)

EmagGeek (574360) | more than 5 years ago | (#26464361)

Utilities would LOVE to invest in infrastructure, but the government doesn't even let them charge enough to operate with a profit, let alone enough of a profit to upgrade or even maintain existing infrastructure. Yay, regulation.

Look at the bright side, though. With CO2 limits and a virtual ban on coal, we won't have enough electricity available to overload our existing infrastructure, anyway.

Obligatory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26463553)

I, for one, welcome our new refrigerator overlords!

This is a bad example of the uses of p2p (1)

rosvall (672559) | more than 5 years ago | (#26463603)

This could really have been done better by putting up a small server at the power plant/windmill, from where the fridge regulators could fetch a message like "use more" or "use less", depending on the current power consumption.

The obvious advantage of simplicity aside, it would also mean more useful regulation, in that the fridges wouldn't just try to smooth out the the power draw from other other fridges, but instead try to balance the total draw at the plant.

Privacy (1)

shungi (977531) | more than 5 years ago | (#26463651)

Recently, I have read a number of stories in the same vain, and here I include things like distributing, without telling people, things that kill bot nets. Of course, if your fridge is talking to other peoples fridges, and so is you TV, shower and kettle, the possibility of breaches of privacy is there. On the other hand, there are clear benifits from doing so; as there are from killing the botnet and maybe from all this cloud computing stuff. As our technology starts to benifit from what might be considered a type of economy of scale through communicating with eachother, without our knowledge we move into the same lack of privacy a villager had when everyone in town knew everything about him or her. I genuinely wonder if it is worth it.

Merloni/Indesit did this in 1990s (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26463669)

Merloni/Indesit, an Italian home appliances company, in 1999 launched the "Margherita Dialogic" washing machine, the first device to include the WRAP (Web Ready Appliances Protocol) technology.

The point of this is that all households in Italy (and I guess in many EU countries) have a 3KW usage limit, and if your demand gos over the limit the electricity meter will disconnect your house entirely.
Hence the need of a communicating protocol between home devices so that if you're using the electric oven and the AC, the fridge or the washing machine talks to them to coordinate a global demand that's below the 3KW threshold.

They also produced "adapters" for devices without their technology, so the smart devices could have a guess of the current electricity usage in the house (think of old devices or hairdryers for example).

I studied this case in an economy class I had. The discussion was focused on the big dilemma: open the technology (eg.:usage of the patents) to everybody to spread it out as much as possible or try to keep it proprietary to keep competitive advantage over competitors?

The only reference I found about it is:
http://www.indesitcompany.com/pages/en/finance/glossario.jsp

Re:Merloni/Indesit did this in 1990s (1)

EmagGeek (574360) | more than 5 years ago | (#26464335)

Holy cow, man, 3kW? That's it? One good slug from an AC motor (such as in a table saw or something) can wipe that out, at least for a few milliseconds.

But... but but but! (1)

winphreak (915766) | more than 5 years ago | (#26464189)

Is your refridgerator running linux?

Sounds like industrial demand-ratchet control. (1)

jcr (53032) | more than 5 years ago | (#26464509)

There have been power control systems for quite a while to manage power consumption in factories that take things like total power draw and time of use into account. They're usually centralized instead of doing peer negotiation, though.

-jcr

I have been thinking about this for years..... (1)

mlwmohawk (801821) | more than 5 years ago | (#26464559)

The electrical power grid could benefit from a number of these sorts of things.

Many high current devices are periodic in nature. Water heaters, electric baseboard heaters, refrigerators, toasters, etc.

There should be a protocol, like X10 or something, that defines a maximum power profile, and all the appliances negotiate "bandwidth" ala USB.

Beyond even that, we have a ridiculous number of redundant appliances, how many get hot? Why should the oven, water heater, furnace, all produce a lot of heat and not share any bit of it. How many devices are heat exchangers? Air conditioning, refrigerators, water coolers, etc.

We need to start thinking about these things in a complementary and systematic sense. In most houses, the refrigerators extract heat from the box and release it in the house. In the winter, this is a good idea. In the summer, it wastes energy in the air conditioning. again, in the winter, in the north east, it could get cold air from the outside.

There is lots of "free" complimentary energy to be had and there is great savings in reducing overall current load, E=I*R and all that.

Chill pipe to outside? (3, Insightful)

brunes69 (86786) | more than 5 years ago | (#26464783)

Living in Canada where it is -25 outside right now, I have always found it an extreme waste of energy to be powering a fridge and freezer to keep things cold in a house I am paying out the nose to heat because it is so cold outside for 1/3 of the year or more.

How come new houses aren't built with some kind of a "chill pipe", kind of like an insulated duct line that routes outside air directly into the kitchen, that could be connected to the fridge? The pipe could be automatically closed or opened as the fridge detected the temperature outside.

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