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Chip company Intel (s INTC) is looking closely at the edges of the smart grid network — or “the edgy smart grid” — where Intel’s chips can play a role in connected energy devices, said Andrew Chien, VP of Intel Labs, at the Intel Developer’s Forum in San Francisco on Thursday. And, like many other energy companies, Silicon Valley startups and IT firms, Intel has been working on a concept of a home energy management product in its research labs, which it demoed at the show.
Intel’s Tomm Aldridge showed off a small, handheld-sized gadget that he says can plug into any outlet and act as a voltage sensor, reading the 60 hertz frequency of the voltage that comes from your home’s appliances and converting the signals to a time-based digital signature that can be read by a PC. Using the unique digital signature from each device, the software on the PC can consult a database to determine what the appliance is and monitor its energy consumption.
Aldridge, who described himself to me as a ham radio buff, said that the device would have a single chip solution and explained that the digital signal is basically a simple audio file. It’s about as simple as a USB audio sender, he explained. The connection between the device and the PC could be wireless or a powerline and the information could easily be uploaded to the Internet to be crunched for other applications and by other services.
Intel says that this type of setup could lower the price of energy management technology below the current centrally managed solutions because it’s so simple. All of the complexity will be in the PC-based software. Intel says you might need only two of these devices in a home to monitor all your home appliances. But for now, this is a just a concept and isn’t meant to become a product, Aldridge said.