While in Hong Kong on a business trip recently, Oliver Goh was on his laptop playing around in a virtual world, when he realized he’d left the water running in his home back in Switzerland. He noticed this because the virtual world contained a recreation of his Swiss residence that pulled information about the home’s energy and water consumption in real time. The gauge that measures water use was blinking. No problem: After his avatar hit the right button, the real-world water valve in Switzerland turned off.
That’s one of the applications of the OpenShaspa Home Energy Kit, available starting tomorrow from the startup that Goh co-founded, also called Shaspa. Created with open-source components like Arduino circuit boards, the kit comes with a system that can monitor and control home power output with wireless sensors, and connect this data to mobile phone and Internet applications. (After reading Katie’s story on another open-source energy tool, ACme, Goh says he plans to add an OpenShaspa device driver that supports it.) Sensors for gas, water and other utility resources can be integrated into the control system, as well.
Other energy management systems can be controlled via cell phones or the web, but in what could be a first, OpenShaspa can be hooked up to a virtual world created with OpenSimulator, an open-source spinoff of Second Life, to a simulated recreation of your home. Not just a cool widget for MMO geeks, Shaspa’s developers believe that modeling energy consumption data in 3D could make it more comprehensible and easier to manage. (It could even be used for a “World of Greencraft”-type game envisioned by a Stanford professor.) And Goh noted an additional benefit of running OpenShaspa from a virtual world: You can ask an avatar friend to look after your real-world house while you’re gone.
The kit includes a “Social Energy Meter,” which as the name suggests, makes all this energy consumption data publicly available online, where it can be collectively analyzed, tracked and compared on Twitter, Facebook, Google and other systems. Shaspa also has plans for a corporate version. Goh tells me 17 residential homes in the UK will launch an OpenShaspa pilot program this June.
Image courtesy of Shaspa.