metering Archive

From the original website:

This is a project to develop and build a free and open source energy monitor. Energy monitoring is a key technology in building a bright and smart sustainable future. An Energy monitor is a device that enables you to look at your energy use in detail, which appliances use the most energy and when they use it. This makes using energy more efficiently easier.

Definitely a cool initiative and I would love seeing more projects like this one.

As mentioned in some previous post, I attended a couple of weeks ago homecamp in London. The event was awesome and I had good times discussing with the folks over there. I loved the un-conference form as it allows people to show up, set up a demo (like I did ), do a talk (like I did). On the other hand, as it is very chaotic we don’t really know what’s going on and when. I wished to have had the opportunity to discuss more in detail with the people in a more relaxed way, though. Thanks for the organizers for the effort they put to make it happen!

Joe Baguley has shown the beta setup of Green Energy Options, where you can connect to your home through the Internet, turn on/off devices (his house is here). He jokingly said he can switch off the TV of the kids remotely, and know when his wife is home (ahemm, what happens if you put vibration sensors on the bed instead of energy meters???). It has a cute Web interface (like many others), and you can remotely monitor your house.

Paul Tanner proposed a community approach for shareable data, benchmark vs. demographic, refactoring behavior and hardware. He used pachube for storage and presentation of the data and asked how to get more loads of smart meter for gas and water. There are huge opportunities, if one could build a device that you can just plug and play, then people would buy it. If you need to pay for an installer, then maybe not. Another barrier to adoption do not only concern the devices directly – many companies have been doing that for years – but the way data is exported and reused. Indeed, I’ve seen so many More and more trends also about gas and water monitoring (gardening for example, where you adapt watering to humidity). In Singapore, electricity bills can fluctuate by 25% (source: informal talk with one guy), but when people are “hurt” economically by the costs of energy, then they’ll change their minds about it.

I also enjoyed the presentation of Flukso. They are building an energy monitoring using a hacked fonera which is actually a wifi access point with openWRT onboard, and an arduino that is connected to an energy sensing board they designed.

Two folks from AMEE did a cool presentation, where they showed they new gadgets and API functions (for example data format conversion, etc). From what I see they’re going right in the same direction as pachube as they want to allow not only to share energy data but others as well, so it will soon be hard to tell the difference with pachube. Their API is RESTful, which seems interesting to check more out in the future.

ONZO showed their beta prototypes, 2 energy monitoring units. The boring one is a simple LCD display that you can clip on a fridge and shows energy consumption, doesn’t seem more than just that, so it looked boring (okay, a cutely designed little box, sure). The cool one is a clipper that uses induction to recharge the batteries in it, and transmit data over wireless. Hmm, I’ve heard that energy optimizers have that already, gotta check that out too.

Pachube rocked the world as always, and it was lovely to chat with Usman about the pachube apps (one of them being the pachube explorer build by Rick Bulotta from Burning Sky software, one of our previous bosses at SAP). They will soon release a php library that allows people to interact with pachube with a few lines of code, and I totally share their vision on that. Seems like I never have enough time to chat with Usman.

I had the chance to have a nice but short chat with Nigel Crawley (one of our fans) who is into building ambient devices. He showed a demo of his OSC-enabled cute nano-ambient-orb. I was impressed by how cool the touchOSC iPhone application actually is, and I realized that I could use that right away with our prototypes, given that our gateway software has direct support for OSC. On our side, I did a quickie talk (totally à l’arrache, as we say in French), and showed a demo of some of the things we work on. We demonstrated the gateway software we’ve been building for months with my students, integrated a RFID reader and an arduino that emulates a plogg gateway software Dom used to talk about. Soon will be blogging about the famous gateway.

In the end I definitely enjoyed the event, and I was amazed by seeing so many people interested into spending their nights working on open source projects around energy and water conservation, and the motivation was often not only “peace-and-love-save-the-planet”, but actually economic. It’s amazing to see the incentives behind this topic, and really looking forward the next years, and see what people will build in this area (hint: as you have guessed, we’ll soon be in that field as well ;). Okay, sorry for the delay, and as you see lots of things to check out for me (hence the delays in posting :).

Great pleasure to be able to attend another talk from David Rose from Ambient Devices and Vitality Inc.

Instead of a pure transcription I’ll try to sum up some aspects of the talk. Note that does not entirely reflect what Dave meant but rather my interpretation
of the talk. Dave began by talking about clairvoyance and magics. He explained how they materialized these chimers into the well-known Orb which changes its color according to a trend. Dave then explained how ambient devices where between push and pull technologies, how they should be peripherial and seamless with the environment(s).

He explained how facinated he was by the idea of dashboards a information concentrators. He especially focused on how to design them in an ambient manner so that they do not turn into pizza-style-portals with too much information to be really integrated to the environment. In the field of weather forcast he presented a prototype he designed recently. This small black screen provides very general information and is very ambient when people are far away. As people come closer it displays more accurate information and increases the info bandwidth and concentration on the screen.


The next part of the talk was about life-cycles of nature and the way to map it as an output interface for ambient devices. As an example gardening and the growing of fruits and vegetables could be mapped to something like the Orb. As apples grow they change their colors (green to yellow to reddish…) the same pattern can be applied to ambient devices.

He then talked about monitoring the energy consumption, an especially interesting topic to us our Energie Visible project develops. He pointed at the fact that energy metering is already in place just not at the right place and not using the right human-computer interface. It is in our cellars when it should be informing us in our living room. In this field he introduced the off-the-shelves products of Ambient Devices Inc.

He went on talking about one of the products of Vitality Inc. The Glowcap is the world’s first Internet connected pill cap! It may sound silly but it actually has a number of uses. It can be used to coordinate re-fills for instance or to check whether you really take your medications. It reminds me of a paper we wrote a while ago about RFDiyin the hospital. But Glowcaps go far beyond and I think they encapsulate the evolution of the Internet of Things. From being able to identify things to being able to enhance and literally connect things..

The last project he talked about was the Ambient umbrella, that knows when it’s gonna rain. While it has not real use it makes a point: take the information away from your browser, embed the Internet into every-day objects.

Just felt like sharing with you one of our latest prototype which we created for a private foundation working in the field of energy awareness and sustainability in Switzerland called Cudrefin02.

I think that a major burden for people, who want to save energy at home, is for them to identify how much energy is consumed by different appliances. How much does my computer consume in operation / when it is powered off? Is the consumption of my energy-saving lamp significantly lower in the long run than the normal lamp I’ve got there? Such questions are key to understand where energy can be saved without too much effort. Currently available solutions, such as pluggable power monitors, are helpful, but do not fully fit the needs of individuals. They lack demonstrating power such as being able to compare consumption on a centralized screen, in an appealing manner.
In this project we implement a system that’s very simple to set up and that can be used in everyday life. As a first step each device to be monitored is coupled to a Plogg . These cool sensor nodes are a combination of an electricity meter plug and a data logger. They offer a Bluetooth interface to retrieve the current or logged consumption, making them great for appliance-level monitoring.

In order to automatically acquire the logged data, we extended the basic functionality of the Ploggs to feature continuous measurements on a fine, granular, time basis. In addition, we developed an integration of the Ploggs’ measurements to a web-based user interface which allows for attractive visualization and control as well as integration of the data on the web.
Thanks to the good cooperation with Energy Optimizers, makers of the Ploggs, we got access to a C-language API that enables us to connect to the core functionalities of the Ploggs. Our first component is a C++ gateway that discovers and manages the Ploggs. In order to enable interoperability with other applications, the gateway embeds a web server (SHTTPD) and offers access to the sensors’ functionality through simple and structured URLs, the web way!

As an example the monitoring data of all the available Ploggs, can be retrieved by accessing the following URL:*

The gateway then discovers the devices and returns the results in the form of a JSON document:
"deviceName": "ComputerAndScreen",
"currentWatts": 50.52,
"KWh": 5.835,
"maxWattage": 100.56
}, {…}]

The approach, that makes an application’s functionality accessible through a simple and well-defined web interface is often referred as RESTful, and has several advantages over more traditional interoperability approaches such as classic WS-* Web Services. First of all it is quite straightforward to use and integrate: any application that can access the web can consume RESTful services and any sensor that has an embedded web server can directly push content onto the web. Secondly, the use of JSON instead of XML reduces the need for complex parsers and requires very little bandwidth.

The second part of our software architecture is in charge of presenting the monitoring data to the end-user. We needed the interface to be attractive, easily-accessible (no additional software to learn or install) and to display real-time data rather than snapshots. Thus, we decided to use a web interface. The implementation is based on the Google Web Toolkit (GWT), a toolkit for building AJAX applications, as well as the OFCGWT toolkit which offers a set of customizable graphs. Using GWT, our application is written in Java and then automatically translated into client-side javascript. This javascript initiates a connection to the gateway every few seconds and directly translates the JSON Ploggs’ results into graphs.
The attached screenshot is what the app looks like in action.

We are now trying to polish the whole application so that someone owning Ploggs could install it and run it within a few minutes. We’ll keep you updated about the advances and publish the code here as soon as we’ll release it!