Green Technology
Google Pulls Plug on PowerMeter
What does the discontinuation of Google's free web-based energy monitoring application mean for home energy management?
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Google has ended the PowerMeter experiment.
June 28, 2011 by Steven Castle

On Sept. 16, Google’s free PowerMeter energy monitoring application will be no more.

According to Google’s blog, the inability of the company to scale with the web-based product has forced it to focus attention elsewhere.

Also:

PowerMeter users will have access to the tool until September 16, 2011. We have made it easy for you to download your data: simply log in to your account and go to “Account Settings” to export to a CSV (Comma Separated Values) file. We will be contacting users directly with more information on this process.

Some thoughts on the PowerMeter, and what it and its demise may mean:

• Say what you will about whether the PowerMeter was a success, but it created a buzz around energy monitoring and energy management.

• Google’s inability to scale with the PowerMeter can be taken a number of ways. If you believe Google to be a harbinger of all things successful in today’s tech world, it’s probably not a good sign for energy monitoring and management. Then again, there are simply better systems out there. Not all are free, but software company Eragy has just released its free, cloud-based MyEragy application for consumer use, and it works with the TED 5000 series, which also worked with PowerMeter.

• This also shows how fragmented the energy management market really is. Big players like Google and Microsoft, which is reportedly reconfiguring its Hohm software in conjunction with Ford for electric vehicle applications, can’t compete at the level and scale they’d like. It will take smaller players who can get big quick.

• I think this also shows that circuit-level energy monitoring is volumes better than whole-house monitoring, which is what Google’s PowerMeter did. I have had access to both as a user of Powerhouse Dynamics’ eMonitor circuit-based system, and I can say definitely that once you see circuit-level monitoring to better pinpoint where your energy use is, there’s no going back to whole-house data. I admire Google for creating the PowerMeter, but it was next to useless to me.

• Big boys not paying full attention to this space need to get out. Let’s hope Google doesn’t do the same with its Android@Home-controlled LED lamp, being built in partnership with Lighting Sciences Group. Or for that matter, Android@ Home

• One also has to wonder whether systems from Intel, Cisco and others apparently looking to cash in on stimulus funds going to smart grid utility rollouts, will ever see reality. Though Cisco now has branding agreement with Control4, part of which may include energy monitoring for Cisco’s connected city efforts in Songdo, South Korea and other international locales.

• Finally, the death of PowerMeter shows how hard it is to crack the residential market for energy management, because:

1. Most people still don’t care about monitoring or managing their energy use.
2. And for those who do, money to invest in these systems is an issue, especially in today’s cloudy-to-tornado economic climate.
3. ROI may be essential to show consumers the savings, and that has been elusive to come by. Meanwhile ROI in the commercial market is much easier to demonstrate, and the market for building management and automation is just getting poised to take off.
4. Home energy management alone isn’t a compelling enough technology for people, but pair it with home security or remote access, as ADT, Xfinity and others are doing, and you can sell systems with energy management.
5. Not only must energy management in the home be affordable, it must be as automated as much as possible so people don’t have to deal with it. Automate, automate, automate. How many times must we say this? Set it and forget it will win the home marketplace—especially if the system is also affordable and offers other conveniences.

 

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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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