Google who already collect vast amounts of information on what Australians search for has now launched PowerMeter which is software that allows organisations like utility Companies to track how consumers are using their energy supply.
Already several Australian utility Companies are researching the new Google offering which is set to compete with a recent home monitoring system introduced by Intel.
The new Google API, which is available on code.google.com, is designed to help device manufacturers develop home energy monitoring tools that can integrate with the company’s PowerMeter. PowerMeter gives utility customers access to power-use data through a Web-based iGoogle gadget.
Google says the application programming interface (API) contains “the underlying data model and the accompanying protocols to ensure that Google PowerMeter provides consumers access to their energy consumption with utmost care in maintaining the user’s privacy and control on access to the information.”
The search Company said that the PowerMeter API offers code samples and client implementation information that can assist users in building devices that are compatible with PowerMeter.
The Google PowerMeter, while an ambitious project and potentially a good thing, is also surrounded with social implications and potential pitfalls according to several observers.
EE Times in an editorial said that, the PowerMeter graphical display is the easy part. It needs to be fed with data. The more energy-consuming devices it can get data from, and the more often it can do it, the more detailed the picture of our energy-consuming lives will be.
The publication claimed that a move by a powerful player like Google is often the best way to kick-start the development of the necessary infrastructure for a major project. In this case it is the fine-grained monitoring of energy consumption in the home, and for that matter in the office and other places of work. Initiatives by big players along the lines of “we’re doing this anyway, join in or get out the way” tend to have better chances of success than endless rounds of standards committees where vested interests are putting spanners in the works as fast as others are taking them out.
Recently Microchip Technology has joined in with Google as a strategic partner and developed a reference implementation of the PowerMeter API. Others involved include two utility Companies in Australia according to Microchip Technology sources.
The Google PowerMeter is free for all. Utilities and device manufacturers pay no fees to work with Google on this project and users likewise do not pay anything, or see adverts, when they use the Google PowerMeter.
Google states: “We’re building this tool to provide energy information to consumers and to expose the opportunity that this front represents. As a project of Google.org, Google’s philanthropic arm, the focus is on helping users understand how they use electricity and help them use less.”