Digital Photo Frame Doubles as Energy Monitor
Energy usage information can appear along with photos of Mom.
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February 13, 2012 by Steven Castle

Sure, you’d like to keep tabs on your home’s energy use, but do you really need another system with another display—this one with boring info about kilowatt hours? Yawn.

But what if your energy info came to you in a digital photo frame, along with rotating pics of your family and friends? That might catch your eye, and inspire you to look a bit more closely at your home’s energy consumption.

That’s the theory being put into practice by Ceiva Energy, an offshoot of Ceiva Logic, which produces cloud-based, connected digital photo frames.

The Ceiva Energy Display can intersperse a few basic energy information slides and energy efficiency tips amid the 40 photo slots on the photo frame, and allow more detailed information to be available with a click or two on the unit’s remote control.

The display can show consumption of electricity, gas, or water, as well as how much energy from an alternative source like a solar system is producing.

It has Ethernet and Wi-Fi connectivity to a home’s network, so it can see what a connected smart thermostat is doing, for example. It can also control other connected devices and has wireless ZigBee Smart Energy Profile (SEP) 1.1 to communicate with many two-way smart meters being installed by utilities for smart grid services. Ceiva’s Energy Display can ping the smart meter every 8 seconds.

A Smart Grid Tool

The Ceiva Energy Display is a promising tool to help engage people in managing their energy usage. Though for now, Ceiva’s device is only being made available through utilities, and can be tailored to a utility’s needs, says Wannie Park, Cevia’s vice president of strategic partnerships.

Ceiva is currently involved in a year-long utility pilot with Glendale Water & Power in Glendale, Calif. Fifty 9-inch diagonal Ceiva Energy Displays were put in homes a couple of months ago, and after technical feasibility tests a second phase of 15,000 will be deployed, before the rest of the population gets 80,000 to 90,000 units, says Park.

Participants in the Glendale pilot can turn up the air conditioning and watch the numbers climb on their digital photo frame right on their kitchen counters.

The interface and energy information homeowners receive via the units depend on the utility’s needs and requirements, Park says.

Park says the Ceiva Energy Display can provide energy info three different ways:

• Energy monitoring with more comprehensive information available to those who want to drill down.
• Photo slide show with a few slides dedicated to provide basic energy information and costs and other information the utility wishes to provide.
• Adding two to three slots per slide show to provide real-time energy data feedback.

Ceiva will also charge small subscriptions to its service. That and other pricing will depend on the utility and whether it plans to subsidize the costs.

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Steven Castle - Contributing Writer
Steven Castle is Electronic House's managing editor. he has been writing about consumer electronics, homes and energy efficiency topics for two decades. He is also the co-founder of GreenTech Advocates.

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