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Monitor Household Energy From Your Smartphone

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the power-in-your-pocket dept.

Power 58

kkleiner writes "People Power 1.0 is an open and extensible cloud-based platform that allows you to monitor up-to-the-minute household energy usage from an iPhone or Android smartphone. Part of the growing Internet of Things, People Power 1.0 brings energy monitoring to the common household. It works through your house router to connect to the Internet and send data to your smartphone. Or you can measure energy consumption from individual devices with People Power's GreenX Powerstrips."

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Needs to be granular (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36977606)

Saying what a house is using each moment is ok, but if you want to do something about reducing energy, you need to know what devices/circuits are sucking it all up. Toys like kilawatt are ok, but the only work on small powered devices. We really need to know what the hardwired, dedicated and 220V systems are using, as they're the main energy consumers.

Re:Needs to be granular (0)

iRoboticist (2428730) | more than 3 years ago | (#36978634)

This is the exact problem this Powerstrip can solve. You will be able to Monitor power consumed by each device plugged into the strip and Control them (turn them OFF) through your phone when they are not in use. You can also compare devices (Energy usage comparison) between devices of different brand.

Re:Needs to be granular (2)

strength_of_10_men (967050) | more than 3 years ago | (#36979988)

This is the exact problem this Powerstrip can solve.

Read the OP's message again. He's talking about the largest consumers of energy in the typical house - the HVAC system. Good luck trying to plug those into their PowerStrip [peoplepowerco.com] .

Re:Needs to be granular (2)

ShakaUVM (157947) | more than 3 years ago | (#36979022)

The SmartMeter (that pretty much every house in California has now) will show you instantaneous power consumption. If you're willing to do easy arithmetic and tromp out to the side of your house, you can figure out what the power draws are for everything in your house, without needing to buy anything.

If you know what's on in your house, then, you know your draw. You can even test things under heavy load.

In my house, the AC uses 4x as much power as the rest of the house combined.

That said, I do have a widget hooked up that reports the amount of power my solar system generates, which gets fed to a website I can check from my phone. PVwatch. It's kind of fun.

Re:Needs to be granular (1)

adolf (21054) | more than 3 years ago | (#36981084)

You don't need a "smart" meter to do this:

Just tromp outside with a wristwatch, look at any old meter, and start counting revolutions. Some simple multiplication later, and you can see how much power you're using.

Usage over time is easy, too: Just record the positions of the dials, and come back later to do it again. Subtract. Done.

Re:Needs to be granular (1)

pnewhook (788591) | more than 3 years ago | (#36985134)

But if you had a smart meter, all you need to do is to logon to your meter from any web browser and check the log. Far easier than what you are suggesting.

Re:Needs to be granular (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 3 years ago | (#36985816)

You don't need a "smart" meter to do this

Yeah, will that dial tell you which circuits are drawing energy and how much?

Re:Needs to be granular (1)

adolf (21054) | more than 3 years ago | (#36986134)

It will do every bit as good a job of it as a "smart meter" will.

Re:Needs to be granular (1)

txmcse (937355) | more than 3 years ago | (#36997818)

Are you suggesting that this device will? Of course a smart meter will. Adolf's method is free and foolproof. You are in ultimate control of what devices are on in your house. A little effort and a little time, and you can figure out the pull of everything that is on your system. Even (as was pointed out already) the 220v devices. Sure, this toy will tell you how much your lamp, or fridge is pulling, but those don't change... one you figure out what they draw per hour... it's pretty much going to stay that way. So then I ask you... besides allow you to turn things on/off from remote... what does this device provide that Adolf's solution does not?

Burn energy to save energy (2)

xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) | more than 3 years ago | (#36977616)

Burn energy to save energy - what's not to like?

But seriously - this is a cool idea. When the price drops to around $2-3 an outlet, I'll outfit my house.

Re:Burn energy to save energy (1)

elsurexiste (1758620) | more than 3 years ago | (#36978440)

Heh, you got me. :P

I was going to scream "This is the way to do prevention! You pay now and recover your investment later!" but then I read your second sentence.

Re:Burn energy to save energy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36983928)

Cool, but useless :P

Or you can measure energy consumption (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36977652)

with People Power's GreenX Powerstrips."

NOW JUST $199.99! BUT CALL IN THE NEXT 15 MINUTES, AND WE'LL *DOUBLE* YOUR ORDER!!!

Re:Or you can measure energy consumption (3, Interesting)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 3 years ago | (#36978900)

    You didn't look over their whole site.

    Their target demographic is businesses, not residential users. But, what business wants to rely on using a cell phone for managing the enterprise? If it's so important that you need it at your fingertips 24/7, you'll have an operations department watching for pesky things like the power going out.

    And the next bit.. If you go to buy something. You can buy T-shirts, tote bags, and exactly ONE piece of equipment. It's their developer board. You can't even buy the outlet strips that they show on the rest of the site.

    But you *CAN* Buy their music [peoplepowerco.com] or have their band come out to perform for you (for a fee, of course).

    These guys must have some nice offices, right? There's a whole manufacturing and distributation pipeline that they'd require.

Palo Alto [google.com] . That's no industrial office.

Bejing, China [google.com] ? Nope not that one, that looks like a residential area.

Tokyo, Japan [google.com]
This isn't residential, but it looks more like a business area, not a manufacturing area. I could be mistaken. If anything, I'd bet there's a mail drop in one of the surrounding buildings. Since I don't read or speak a word of Japanese, I can't guess on which building in the area is the correct one.

I did find some press releases from 2009, where they had a picture of a guy in Japan, and all kinds of talk about saving billions of dollars.

    I do wonder, now that they're trying hard to market themselves, how is AT&T (now owner of Cingular) going to feel about their logo being stolen. I can't imagine AT&T let the trademark lapse. They have entire departments dedicated to keeping their patents, copyrights, and trademarks up to date, *AND* suing the pants off of anyone trying to play with their toys.

    So we're left with a company, with no real product other than their band and self-published CD, with offices in 3 countries, a bunch of forward looking statements, and not much else.

    I think you were pretty close, except they don't even have the outlet strips to sell.

Re:Or you can measure energy consumption (1)

txmcse (937355) | more than 3 years ago | (#36997908)

awesome write up. I wish there was a way to give back all the time you spent looking all of that up. I love non-troll, tounge-in-cheek /. responses.

Up next (2)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 3 years ago | (#36977672)

All we need now is an app that monitors how many monitoring apps there are! Otherwise, how are we going to keep track of them all?

Re:Up next (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36978352)

All we need now is an app that monitors how many monitoring apps there are! Otherwise, how are we going to keep track of them all?

Well, People Power is not just an monitoring App, it also allows you to control the energy, now thats the first one

Re:Up next (1)

alienzed (732782) | more than 3 years ago | (#36978552)

Then we'll make an app that will monitor the monitor monitoring apps so that we don't have to!

kit costs $150 (2)

iamhassi (659463) | more than 3 years ago | (#36977676)

This is not free, the kit to hook up to your electricity is $150. [amazon.com] I don't purposely leave things on so I don't think I could turn off enough electrical appliances to ever save that $150, it's not like I could turn off the A/C, fridge, etc.

Re:kit costs $150 (1)

hood8263 (1396373) | more than 3 years ago | (#36977770)

ummm ya... you could turn off your AC

Re:kit costs $150 (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#36978024)

depends. In some areas that means his house would be over 125 degrees during the day. Possible even as high if 150.
Or he is Dr. Freeze.

Re:kit costs $150 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36978118)

Heres a novel idea; Open your windows! Then you'll find that it is cooler than being in the sun outside. If you house is as hot as your car when it's closed then you might look into turning of your central heat or maybe your oven.

Just a thought.

Re:kit costs $150 (1)

webheaded (997188) | more than 3 years ago | (#36978226)

Are you being serious right now? You're actually suggesting that somewhere such as, I don't know...Phoenix...where it gets up to 110 regularly, just opening the windows would allow you to not use your A/C? Are you going to tell us next that closing your windows during the winter is all you need to do to keep the house warm in Minnesota? No. Let me tell you what happens when it's 110 outside and you turn off the A/C: You can open every god damn window in your house and your will watch the temperature climb into the high 90's inside the house.

Seriously though, I don't even understand why that is your suggestion. I turn my heat off in the winter here usually but during the summer you would pretty much want to die. Maybe if he lived somewhere like CA near a beach or something that would fly but the grandparent is clearly talking about somewhere REALLY hot. I think I'll pass on that. That's not a novel idea. You clearly aren't paying any attention to what he was talking about. Opening your windows somewhere where it's over 100 degrees outside is not going to happen.

Re:kit costs $150 (1)

karnal (22275) | more than 3 years ago | (#36983920)

Even in the midwest (Central Ohio here) where the heat has been getting up to 90+ with humidity in the 90s; I know first hand that this is MISERABLE without AC.

I bought a house with almost non-functional AC. I was trying to be cheap by not fixing it right away - turns out it just needed to be leak tested and filled. The two summers that I didn't do that had me and my friends (roomates) sweating like mad as the humidity was so high.

And this coming from people who lived in a similar climate in Pennsylvania for most of their early lives with no AC. Must have been less humid there, either that or we have the rose-colored glasses effect.

Re:kit costs $150 (1)

need4mospd (1146215) | more than 3 years ago | (#36978614)

$1000 says you couldn't make it a full week in a Northeast Texas home this week with just the windows open. My sister said it was well over 100 degrees at 9:00 last night in Dallas. The heat index is near 120 degrees in Houston at 5:30. Opening the windows gives you maybe 10 degrees of cooling in the average shitty US home. Couple that with most people not knowing how to manage airflow through the home with window openings and most homes are probably worse off with open windows.

Re:kit costs $150 (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 3 years ago | (#36985940)

Heres a novel idea; Open your windows!

Where the fuck do YOU live? Yeah, you try that shit when it's 110 outside.

use a programmable thermostat (1)

Chirs (87576) | more than 3 years ago | (#36978990)

Rather than totally disabling the A/C, you can use a programmable thermostat to let the house get uncomfortably (but not unsafely) hot during times when nobody is around, then cool it back down when people are around.

Also, in areas of low humidity where it gets cool at night you can gain a lot of efficiency by opening windows at night, circulating the cool air around the house, then sealing up the windows during the day when it's hot out.

Re:kit costs $150 (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#36978038)

If you say 10 bucks a month because you are more aware of your energy usage, then it pays for itself in 15 months.

Re:kit costs $150 (1)

txmcse (937355) | more than 3 years ago | (#36998038)

let's assume that a month is 720 hours (24*30). Iet us also assume that you're paying around .10/kwh... you'll have to save 100 hours of electricity to make up for $10/mo... correct? Now let's assume that if you are willing to pay $150 for a device to save energy, then you are already energy conscious enough to turn unneeded items off. So what this is going to allow you to do is to turn off the things you forgot to turn off before you left the house. (because if you are at the house, and you see something wasting energy you'll just go turn it off, right?) As you are already the type of consumer who cares about consumption, and you already turn off unneeded items, where do you suspect you'll be able to come up with 100hrs/month of savings? try more like 24-38 months for that ROI.

Re:kit costs $150 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36978042)

Well so-phony-it-hurts amazon reviews aren't free ya know.

Re:kit costs $150 (3, Interesting)

malakai (136531) | more than 3 years ago | (#36978704)

I got this for free from Con Edison (not this model). They came out, installed it on the mains, and hooked up a little wireless gateway device. I get instant usage reports...etc.

It's value diminishes a bit with time. Early on, I was looking at the charts daily. I really got into optimizing my place for low energy during the day. I could see when my refrigerator cycled on, and later when my A/C systems cycled on. It did lead me to throw away two older A/C units that were drawing way to much power.

The ability to be alerted when you seem to be using unusually more power than normal is good. I had a BeerTender go bad and some cheap Wine Cooler/Refrig unit. Both started using way more energy than they should have w/o tripping the breaker. Also, they give you a little LED status bar that's wireless, and will show you what % of your target daily KW your on track to using. It basically shows you your energy velocity. I.E, it says "if you keep using this much energy, then by midnight tonight you'll be x% through your self-set daily budget." If you go over 100% it turns red. A few times this summer I had full red bars by 10am. Window AC systems are really not efficient.

All in all, I've cut my year to year energy bill by half. In fact, this last month was $200 vs $450 last year. In a few years this will be standard and won't seem unusual, but the data is value added imo.

Re:kit costs $150 (1)

fishb0ne (1190195) | more than 3 years ago | (#36985756)

Perfect example of gaming the Amazon review system. Product has only one review, by a user which only has 2 reviews, both for the same product and company.

People Power (1)

chinton (151403) | more than 3 years ago | (#36977704)

Do People Power Powerstrips have Genuine People Personalities?

Google PowerMeter (1)

mojo-raisin (223411) | more than 3 years ago | (#36977734)

I track my home energy usage for free with Google's PowerMeter (SDG&E)

http://www.google.com/powermeter/site/recent [google.com]

Why does this need to be on a smart phone? (1)

erice (13380) | more than 3 years ago | (#36977860)

Except for indirect spying on whoever might be home, I don't see why a smart phone app to measure home power usage is even useful. What you really need are overall trends and patterns by device. Not only can this wait until you get home, it works much better on a large screen.

Re:Why does this need to be on a smart phone? (2)

geekoid (135745) | more than 3 years ago | (#36978056)

habit changes are easier with regular reminders. Like making people think about what they are eating every time they eat helps people control their diet.

Re:Why does this need to be on a smart phone? (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | more than 3 years ago | (#36978920)

I don't understand the "cloud based" either. Or was that just added to get the buzzword count up?

Re:Why does this need to be on a smart phone? (1)

ee_moss (635165) | more than 3 years ago | (#36979272)

'Cloud based' means you can access the data and interact with your energy from any location. Many energy monitoring solutions available today are accessible from the local premises only. With a cloud-based system you can access it on your phone, TV, computer, etc. at any location. The most useful time for me to turn off my power is when I'm away from home and forgot to turn something off, which is a good case for the mobile phone.

Re:Why does this need to be on a smart phone? (1)

ironjaw33 (1645357) | more than 3 years ago | (#36979696)

'Cloud based' means you can access the data and interact with your energy from any location. Many energy monitoring solutions available today are accessible from the local premises only. With a cloud-based system you can access it on your phone, TV, computer, etc. at any location. The most useful time for me to turn off my power is when I'm away from home and forgot to turn something off, which is a good case for the mobile phone.

A few extra sensors to detect movement or body heat and the system would automatically know when you are home or not. You could then define a profile for the system to automatically turn devices off that's supposed to be off when you're gone. This way, the system works automatically without any interaction. Instead, the app-centric approach to this tells me that the platform is going to nag me to death when I'm not home and the lights are on.

Re:Why does this need to be on a smart phone? (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | more than 3 years ago | (#36979814)

Why is cloud based different from "you can go to a fixed IP address or web site to look this up"? If you used to use a computer and your ISP to get to a web site and now you can use a phone to get to the same web site, why is it now called cloud based even though the service has not changed its technology?

Re:Why does this need to be on a smart phone? (1)

pnewhook (788591) | more than 3 years ago | (#36985172)

Because 'cloud based' is the new buzzword just like 'synergy' was a while ago. A meaningless word used to pretend you know what you are talking about.

Re:Why does this need to be on a smart phone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36979508)

Another reason is that although right now they're just focusing on monitoring, the real benefit will come from *controlling* your devices. That's much more important to have on a smartphone, so you can turn off your set-top box or adjust your thermostat from wherever you are, than to have on a TV, when you're just steps away from your devices and thermostat.

Anybody using TED found a smart meter discrepancy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36977924)

This app and other rely on a hardware meter such as the TED-5000 [theenergydetective.com] (hopefully no relation to the HAL-9000 which can also monitor nascent human rebellions).

Has anybody using one of these found a discrepancy with their utility's "smart-meter" reported energy usage?

Smart Meters and the Internet (1)

slinches (1540051) | more than 3 years ago | (#36978272)

Can't most people do this already without the need for an "app"? I think almost everyone with a smart meter should have access to the data through their power utility's website. Does this do something more, like monitor per circuit or per device usage?

Re:Smart Meters and the Internet (1)

iRoboticist (2428730) | more than 3 years ago | (#36978524)

Well there is no "App" for smart meters yet as utilities want to hold on to the data...they do not want to let you know how much you consume in real time. Also the People Power app and powerstrip will let you monitor each device's energy consumption and control the devices too. Also the current version PP1.0 currently only lets you monitor data for the entire house, but its a start. Soon you will be able to control your thermostats and devices through the app too, while measuring their power consumption individually.

Re:Smart Meters and the Internet (1)

pnewhook (788591) | more than 3 years ago | (#36978696)

Well there is no "App" for smart meters yet as utilities want to hold on to the data...they do not want to let you know how much you consume in real time.

Depends where you live. My power utilities' smart meter allows secure real-time access to my power usage from a web browser, and therefore by default my smartphone.

Re:Smart Meters and the Internet (1)

astrodoom (1396409) | more than 3 years ago | (#36979534)

hmm...I wonder if there's a way to get the data sent from the little port they installed on the outside of the house. Those scanners the power guys come around with are probably just simple IR, wonder if there's a way to figure out the control signal.

Re:Smart Meters and the Internet (1)

astrodoom (1396409) | more than 3 years ago | (#36979694)

actually, scratch that, I think that's for water usage

Re:Smart Meters and the Internet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36978588)

Yes, some of the monitors can be configured to measure individual circuits, especially useful with a rooftop solar system. Solar or wind inverters often have an add-on option to transmit their measurements over wifi or bluetooth, but those add-ons usually cost as much or more as a TED or similar, without the added benefit of providing whole-house consumption data (smart meter equivalent).

Re:Smart Meters and the Internet (1)

ironjaw33 (1645357) | more than 3 years ago | (#36979766)

Can't most people do this already without the need for an "app"? I think almost everyone with a smart meter should have access to the data through their power utility's website. Does this do something more, like monitor per circuit or per device usage?

I saw a presentation from a prof at the University of Washington who designed a power meter that plugs into the breaker and automatically learns the power signature of each device in your home as well as determine how much power each individual device uses. He founded a startup that was supposed to sell these things for about $150 in retail stores, except he sold out to Belkin before the devices went to market. This was about a year or two ago, and I haven't heard anything about these devices since. I definitely would have bought one.

SRP (southwest U.S) is doing this (free) (1)

havardi (122062) | more than 3 years ago | (#36979722)

Well, not up to the minute, but just last month they added daily usage graphs with on-peak and off-peak as well as average temperature. You can see yesterday's usage. You can also let it calculate your next bill based on partial usage. So, you may not want to drop hundreds of dollars on this if your local power company has the data and is willing to share...

more privacy invasion to datamine (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36979852)

I'm glad I made the choice to not own a smartphone.

Texas electricity consumers can get this info free (1)

pongo000 (97357) | more than 3 years ago | (#36980226)

Smart Meter Texas [smartmetertexas.com]

Unfortunately, there appears to be no way to automatically send e-mails/SMS messages when certain usage targets are met, so the usability of the site leaves a lot to be desired. But it's a start...

Re:Texas electricity consumers can get this info f (1)

mc_secular (1154919) | more than 3 years ago | (#36980306)

I met the folks who manage Smart Meter Texas last month. They said it is underbuilt on purpose so that Retail Electricity Providers (there are 80+ in Texas) can craft custom apps on top of the portal data platform. Gives the REPs a new area to compete in besides price and 'green-ness'.

Alternative product like this (1)

yrock (925195) | more than 3 years ago | (#36980732)

I just became aware of another product like this. Our area uses Itron or Schlumberger automated electric meters. These meters already have a radio transmitter in them. I got the Digi ERT/ethernet gateway http://www.digi.com/products/wireless-routers-gateways/gateways/ert-ethernet.jsp#overview [digi.com] and set it up for my meter. There is an app for both iPhone and Android that provides energy monitoring via the Digi Energy Day Trader website. If your house has a newer smart meter, there is a different Zigbee gateway that works for those meters. I just got mine set up last week, and it is working great.
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