The House That Twitters Its Energy Use

45 Comments

Can Twitter help you turn your lights off? IBM’s “Master Inventor” Andy Stanford-Clark has rigged up his home to twitter its energy use, and if you follow the tweets you can see in real time when Stanford-Clark has turned his lights and fountain off or on and whether he has an “unusually high electricity use” or has reduced power consumption.

It’s not as weird as it sounds. The Twitter stream is an exercise in using the data from home automation feeds, and the hope is that, by making energy usage data transparent and easy to digest, it will change consumer behavior and reduce energy consumption. The former Flash guys at GreenBox are working on using the same type of info for their energy management software, as are startups Agilewaves, and Lucid Design Group.

Stanford-Clark runs the Pervasive and Advanced Messaging Technologies team at IBM in Hursley Park, and he recently told the folks at startup AlertMe more about the home setup. Updates are sent via sensors in the home, and the system uses an IBM middleware product to connect the service. Stanford-Clark also told AlertMe that he can turn the lights and the fountain on or off from a website.

Stanford-Clark has also worked on the Power Orb, which changes colors to reflect energy use. He told Eureka Magazine that the inspiration for the Orb came from a project started to monitor electricity consumption for Enron.

So, what’s Andy House doing now? Go look: Its electricity meter reading is 31,400 kWh. It’s strangely addicting.

45 Comments

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JB

Try Futz.me You can Twitter by just sending an http post (ie. no need to program). Drop this in your address bar of any browser: “futz.me/xxx/t Weather is nice” (where “xxx” is your futz.me username.

elpollo

The Prius feedback image has me totally under control, he directs how I drive.

joe

It´s just an excuse to promote Twitter. My opinion.

Yaniv Golan

Why stop with houses?

One of the things I like about my Toyota Prius is its “feedback loop” – as I step on the gas, it tells me what would my average gas consumption be if I keep stepping on it, and therefore I take my leg off the gas.

It’d be cool to have this info twittered to my twitter in real time, or even once a day – a great incentive to save more.

Matt @IBM

Great use of technology – especially use of the NSLU2s (I have one myself as primarily an itunes server – very flexible and minimal power use).

My only concern would be regarding security – could this information be used to determine if you house is vacant for a couple of weeks – such as when you are on holiday?

Andy Stanford-Clark

@mark and @alexis some of are using low power embedded linux servers to run the computing infrastructure, e.g. SLUGs (Linksys NSLU2) and several similar devices. SLUG only uses 4W… makes a nice combo with the CurrentCost meters we’re using to measure the power (currentcost.co.uk)

Alexis Madrigal

@Mark: The energy cost of adding the monitoring and messaging infrastructure is minimal, and I’m pretty sure you know that. If there are ANY cost savings to be derived from monitoring, and there are very good reasons and empirical studies that suggest there will be, then it makes sense even if costs an extra watt to do it.

Andy Stanford-Clark

The thing that made this really easy for me to do, was that my home automation system uses a messaging middleware infrastructure (read more about middleware on AlertMe’s blog, linked above – they put it rather well). With that in place, an “MQTT to twitter” (see http://mqtt.org) bridge was all that was needed to get the whole house twittering!

Actually, not quite all – it also needed a small application to make the tweets into “interesting” information, rather than just plain-old data (e.g. describing a room as “cold”, “warm” or “hot” rather than “15 degrees”, or whatever).
There’s a whole AI subject there – Turing Tests for Tweetjects next ?!

Mark

The irony is that in setting up the computers to monitor and tweet the energy use of that particular house, it is using more power to do so.

Go figure eh?

George

Awesome idea! It’s great that so many families/individuals are becoming more conscious about their energy usage consumption, but it’s the large corporations and companies that are just as much of a problem. Companies like Enernoc (http://www.enernoc.com) are paying large companies to implement an energy management system, which I think is better than the minor tax credits families and individuals are getting for little changes.

Katie Fehrenbacher

There’s companies like GreenBox, Lucid Designs, and AgileWaves that are trying to set up the whole package for your home, which includes wireless sensors to pick up the information, devices like smart thermostats and the software to connect the system. Before this technology can really work well your utility has to install a smart electricity meter — those are getting rolled out over the next few years. Then you need a company to install the devices that these startups are using. The startups will be able to connect you with appropriate installers. So yeah, its really early days for this stuff.

Meryn Stol

Where can I get more info on “home automation feeds” you are talking about? What kind of devices are giving such data? Is this easy to install?

Tuin Baibeez

It would be great if Twitter could offer this service to companies, and make it easy for them, so the public can actually see if they making an effort.

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