Google is building smart power meters for public use


11 Feb 2009

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Not only is Google taking on the mission of managing the world’s information, it seems that now the search giant wants to manage the world’s electricity usage too!

The company has revealed it is hard at work building a number of consumer and business tools technologies, including a Google PowerMeter, to make better use of power.

This is a multi-tiered strategy that on the one hand involves Google lobbying decision-makers in Washington to deploy smart grids and bring the current Fifties-era grids into the digital age, while on the other, making new software tools to show consumers their home-energy information in almost real-time.

“Google’s mission is to ‘organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful’, and we believe consumers have a right to detailed information about their home electricity use,” said Ed Lu of Google’s engineering team on the company’s blog.

“We’re tackling the challenge on several fronts, from policy advocacy to developing consumer tools, and even investing in smart-grid companies. We’ve been participating in the dialogue in Washington DC, and with public agencies in the US and other parts of the world, to advocate for investment in the building of a ‘smart grid’ to bring our Fifties-era electricity grid into the digital age.

“Specifically, to provide both consumers and utilities with real-time energy information, homes must be equipped with advanced energy meters called ‘smart meters’. There are currently about 40 million smart meters in use worldwide, with plans to add another 100 million in the next few years.”

Lu said that deploying smart meters alone isn’t enough –the move also needs to be coupled with a strategy to provide consumers with easy-to-access energy information.

He said that open protocols and standards should serve as the cornerstones of these smart grids.

“We believe that detailed data on your personal energy use belongs to you, and should be available in an open-standard, non-proprietary format. You should control who gets to see your data, and you should be free to choose from a wide range of services to help you understand it and benefit from it.”

The Google PowerMeter will show consumers their home-energy information in almost real-time on their computer.

The software isn’t publicly available but it’s being tested out internally by Google workers.

The company says its building partnerships with utility companies and independent device makers to gradually roll it out in pilot programmes.

“Once we’ve had a chance to kick the tyres, we’ll make the tool more widely available,” Lu promised.

By John Kennedy