Tag Archives: electricity

Home Camp mark 2

The second Home Camp event takes place in London tomorrow. I won’t repeat all of the details here, as they are covered over on the Home Camp blog.

We have some wonderful sponsors – CurrentCost, Greenmonk, Onzo, Pachube, and ReactionGrid, with support from theattick who are going to be streaming the event for us as well.

There are some nice pre-event writeups on the Greenmonk and Redmonk blogs.

It’s a shame that due to unforeseen circumstances I’m no longer able to attend, but I’m looking forward to following remotely if I can, and otherwise catching all the content tagged ‘homecamp’ on Flickr, blogs, and Twitter.

The event is open to anyone, so if you are interested in home hacking automation and energy efficiency, you will definitely want to get involved.


Smart Planet

IBM’s Chairman and CEO, Sam Palmisano, has been speaking to the Council of Foreign Relations in New York today. He’s been discussing how the planet is getting smarter:

These collective realizations have reminded us that we are all now connected – economically, technically and socially.  But we’re also learning that being connected is not sufficient.  Yes, the world continues to get “flatter.”  And yes, it continues to get smaller and more interconnected.  But something is happening that holds even greater potential.  In a word, our planet is becoming smarter.

In the speech, Sam talks about how the world has become instrumented, more interconnected, and devices more intelligent. And he talks about how the current world crises – ecological, financial, and others – represent an opportunity for change. The next step for the globally integrated economy is a globally integrated and intelligent economy and society.

Some of the problems and solutions that are being mentioned are interesting.

67 per cent of all electrical energy is lost due to inefficient power generation and grid management… utilities in the U.S., Denmark, Australia and Italy are now building digital grids to monitor the energy system in real time.

Congested roadways in the U.S. cost $78 billion annually in wasted hours and gas… Stockholm’s new smart toll system has resulted in 22 percent less traffic, a 12 to 40 percent drop in emissions and 40,000 additional daily users of the public transport system

This is exciting for me on many levels. Let me step up through them.

As regular readers will know, I’ve become increasingly interested in pervasive computing and home automation. The little “Current Cost craze” that has swept through my group of friends at work could be seen as a mark of the individual interest in applying technology in a smarter way. I’m excited that this has widened out to a group of folks who are supporting Chris Dalby’s Home Camp idea in London later this month.

Secondly, beyond this individual approach, it ties in to some of what I heard at the recent Web 2.0 Expo in Berlin… people talking about the opportunity for technology to change the way things work, from Tim O’Reilly’s keynote on the way forward for Internet technology and innovative thinking, to Tom Raftery’s brilliant GreenMonk pitch on Electricity 2.0.


STOP Studying the world. START Transforming it.

Finally, and most broadly, it’s a hopeful vision which resonates when lately, things do sometimes appear bleak.


Technology can help society. Let’s go and make it happen.

New York Times article on Sam Palmisano’s speech

YouTube Smarter Planet videos

Update: a couple more links, if you want to get involved…

Smarter Planet on FriendFeed

Smarter Planet on Tumblr

Current Cost

Current Cost meterThe buzz
There’s a bit of a buzz going on at work at the moment – a bunch of us from “the Hursley crowd” have started playing with Current Cost meters. These devices are intended to enable consumers to see exactly what their energy usage is and, hopefully, modify behaviour to save electricity accordingly. The idea, simply, is that it provides real-time information about energy consumption.

Rich, James, Nick and Ian have all written about their Current Cost meters already, amid much twittering and the support of @andysc.

The product
The device itself comes in two parts. The unit that goes inside the house is a wireless LCD display which shows the current usage in watts, the current estimated cost per day assuming that usage is maintained, a bar chart with yesterday’s usage, overall KWH in the past day and month, and the time and temperature.Current Cost meter The other half of the device is a somewhat larger and heavier transmitter (shown at the top of the picture, the top of the two black boxes inside our cupboard) which sits next to the electricity meter, with a clip that gently attaches around the cable (you can see that hanging off the cable at the bottom of the picture). The product is completely non-invasive and it’s incredibly easy for anyone to install: there’s no rewiring, just a clip. I was extremely impressed. It “just worked”.

Update: I should point out, given some comments, that we’re using an early batch of the meters and I’m not certain when they will be generally available.

Update: Roo points out that Eco Gadget Shop have them for sale to consumers, minus data cable.

The impact

One of the other features of the device is that it can be plugged in to a computer, and the data can then be captured and analysed over time. We are using some homebrew software to do this, pulling the data from the serial port (most of the meters use 9600 baud, it turns out that mine is set to 2400 for some reason).

Current Cost graph

It’s kind of scary to see some of the spikes in the graph, and just watching this has certainly made me adjust my behaviour in terms of switching things off and unplugging chargers and so on when they are not in use. We’ve all got our meters hooked up via a Microbroker, and this has been my first opportunity to really play around with MQTT technology… I’ve obviously been aware of it for a very long time, but it’s nice to have something tangible to hack around with. It has also led me into a bunch of interesting discussions about home automation, tweetjects and low-power servers. Fascinating stuff.

The ideas

I have a bunch of thoughts about this. I have it hooked up to an old Linux box, but I’ve also successfully attached it to my Macbook Pro and a Windows Thinkpad. Currently the software is sending the MQTT data to a Microbroker and a Java app is drawing the graph shown above, but it would be fairly straightforward, for example, to squirrel the data locally and do some interesting analytics using Project Zero (aka WebSphere sMash) and some AJAX-y Google Chart goodness. I can also capture ambient temperature over time. It’s all just a matter of finding the hacking opportunity!