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Google pulls the plug on PowerMeter energy tool

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Google (s GOOG) has officially pulled the plug on its web energy management tool PowerMeter. The project, which Google launched two years ago, just “didn’t catch on the way we would have hoped,” says Google in a blog post, and the tool will be shut down Sept. 16, 2011 (giving users enough time to download their data before the end of the service).

PowerMeter has seemed to have been on life support for much of the time it’s been in existence, and last I heard, it had brought in just 11,000 users. Turns out it’s difficult for a large Internet company to convince utilities to partner with it, and it’s also hard to get consumers to care about energy consumption. At the same time, PowerMeter was closely tied to smart meter data when it was first launched, and smart meter installations were still in an early stage back in 2009 (and still are).

PowerMeter enabled its users to monitor and manage their energy consumption online via an iGoogle widget, if the utility had agreed to connect their smart meter data with Google. Utility San Diego Gas & Electric and smart meter maker Itron (s ITRI) became Google PowerMeter partners. Later, Google opened up the PowerMeter API and connected with gadget makers to make it more of a direct-to-consumer tool.

PowerMeter stemmed out of Google’s philanthropic arm, and Google long said it didn’t plan to make any money off of the tool. Well, that turned out to be true. Other companies that have launched services and gadgets in the home energy management space have changed course or folded. Microsoft (s msft) launched a similar tool to PowerMeter called Hohm, which it later evolved.

Still, Google’s moves are often influential, even if they aren’t profitable. Google’s launch of PowerMeter worried startup competitors and entrepreneurs at the time, and scared some utilities who didn’t want Google owning the relationship with its power customers. PowerMeter also brought a lot of attention to a space that, for the most part, can be less-than-sexy.

Google shutting down PowerMeter will also draw attention. Startup Wattvision, which makes a low-cost energy home energy management tool, wrote on its blog yesterday that it’s offering a $50-off coupon for this weekend only — use the coupon code: “byepowermeter”.

7 Responses to “Google pulls the plug on PowerMeter energy tool”

  1. Andrew

    It is sad to hear about Google power meter death. Energy management is not just an application. It has five ingredients -Monitoring > Analyzing > Target > Control > Engagement. It requires a combination of hardware, software and a lot of HUMAN EFFORT to save energy. The industrial segment has been using somewhat similar systems since last 28 years. It has achieved a lot of benefit from it. I think Google has primarily focused on the application and not the other aspects of energy management. Second, all the five ingredients are difficult to deliver due to cost constrains in home automation business. In the industry even the web-based products, like one from are doing well. But sad they do not cater to the home automation segment yet. But they have a free version, but i am not sure if it works with TED kind of devices. Death of Google Power meter has indeed left a void in this space.

  2. Most Google products fail, largely because Google has no marketing chops. And with the current leadership they never will.

    Too bad for the good ideas that will die a slow death, alone and unmourned.

  3. Wattvision (mentioned above) is the most stable, easiest to install, and has the nicest user interface of any of the home energy monitors. I have had a TED and Blueline and Wattvision just works without batteries or glitches.

  4. While I am not really disappointed about PowerMeter going bye-bye, I am puzzled by Google’s (now routine) statement about ‘failed’ products: “didn’t catch on the way we would have hoped,”.

    It is one thing to offer products like GMail or Google Maps, which were almost the same as or better than competing products since day no. 1. It is reasonable to expect those products to catch on by word of mouth alone, with hardly any marketing resources given to them. It is an entirely different proposition to release beta-quality (or even alpha-quality) products like PowerMeter, Health and Wave, put no marketing support resources behind them, not offer them strategic, long-term support and then expect them to catch on. How can Google think these products will ‘catch on’ just like that? Just because they have the Google name? Yeah right!

    • Peter A

      Google projects such as this come from the “employee retention” budget: Allow them to spend 20% of their time on a project they want to build and run it the way they want to run it, so they are less likely to leave for some startup. If they fail (which they most likely will), then they’ll appreciate having a job and a paycheck even more. If they succeed then great: Google owns 100% of it and they earn a promotion.