IDEA & OPPORTUNITY > Home energy monitoring, delivered by Google

Reducing energy consumption is clearly a global imperative, but before one can reduce it helps to know how much one is already consuming. Targeting the 40 million "smart meters" now in use worldwide-and the 100 million more soon to be added-Google is testing a new gadget that will take the information such devices collect and make it more easily accessible to the consumer.

Many smart meters don't display consumption information to the user, but Google's PowerMeter prototype-now in closed beta-is designed to receive such information and provide access to it via the user's iGoogle homepage. Aiming to help users make better energy decisions, the technology taps Google's scalable, secure IT architecture and the iGoogle gadget platform to show consumers their energy use in near real-time, including an analysis of how much energy is used by different household appliances and activities. Google vows to keep all data under the user's control, and it says it hopes to work with as many utility companies as possible to deliver the technology for free to anyone with a smart meter.

Finding alternative energy sources may be the gold rush of our era, but helping the world wean itself from nonrenewable energy is just as important-and potentially just as rewarding. Google is currently seeking utilities and device manufacturers to partner with; one to get in on early? (Related: Visualising energy use.)

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Spotted by: Judy McRae
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