Google and Microsoft Building Smart Power Grids
If you think the two technology giants Google and Microsoft compete only on cloud-based applications and new-age search engines, you’ll be surprised to know that they are making forays into developing two-way power grids that will not only bring electricity to your house, but will also help you optimize usage and consequently, save money.
The problem with the current power distribution is that it is like a one-way traffic. While the power is constantly being transmitted to your homes, nothing is transmitted from your homes to the power stations. Do the power stations want power from your homes? No, but they can definitely use the user trends information and make power available accordingly. It’s practically impossible to make informed choices if you don’t have the right information. Google’s PowerMeter and Microsoft’s Hohm aim to achieve exactly that. They will provide you information that can help you optimize your energy usage.
For instance, do you know how much energy you exactly consume when you wash one day’s laundry, or when you’re watching your favorite soap opera? How much money can you save by improving your insulation and replacing the old refrigerator, or stop watching the TV program you don’t enjoy much? What amount of energy is burned if by mistake you forget to switch off a light bulb or a fan? Right now you cannot take minute-by-minute measurements. It’s very difficult to know which of your habits waste energy more in order to cut down on them.
Similarly, your energy provider has no way of finding out exactly when you use more energy. If a storm knocks off your electricity supply, the company that provides you electricity has no way of finding it out unless you call them up.
Further, you pay a uniform rate, whether you use power at night or day. At day when every possible appliance under the sun is running the demand for electricity is higher. At night, when the normal humanity sleeps and so do most of the appliances there is not much demand for electricity. So should you be charged less when you don’t consume electricity during peak hours?
Both the power grids will help you use your electricity judiciously, and this will not only help you save cost, but also help you help save the environment because suddenly you’ll be consuming less power.
With the help of Google’s PowerMeter your appliances will be able to decide when to use more power and when to use less. Once the grid is installed, using iGoogle you’ll be able to monitor your power usage minute-by-minute, for individual appliances. On your Google home page you will be able to add the tracker the way you add any other gadget there. The PowerMeter is designed to show a granular, real-time view of electricity-consuming devices. According to Google labs: “Google PowerMeter receives information from utility smart meters and energy management devices and provides customers with access to their home electricity consumption right on their personal iGoogle homepage. We are currently testing Google PowerMeter with a number of utilities and plan to expand our roll out later this year.”
Not to be left behind, Microsoft’s Hohm uses advanced analytics licensed from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the U.S. Department of Energy to provide consumers with personalized energy-saving recommendations. The online application will help consumers lower their energy bill as well as reduce their impact on the environment. According to Craig Mundie, chief research and strategy officer at Microsoft, “Microsoft Hohm demonstrates how a combination of advanced software and Internet-based services can help people track, understand and manage their personal energy usage.”
Currently, both the applications are in their beta stage.