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Google testing new 'PowerMeter' application

February 16, 2009

by Mark Ollig

We visit Google dot “com” all the time, but how many of us have been on the Google dot “org” web site?

One story which appeared last week in the tech blogs I read talked about Google and their new “iGoogle” service called “Google Powermeter.”

Google has created and is currently testing this software application, which tracks a household’s electricity consumption. This new service will soon be available for free.

The information in this application is obtained from what is called a “smart meter.”

A “smart meter” is an advanced digital device which connects to your home’s electrical system and is normally installed by your power company. It incorporates a computer chip which records energy usage. The smart meter is able to communicate this information with the power company and in this case, with your “iGoogle” personalized homepage service.

iGoogle is more or less your own personalized “Google desktop” with applications, widgets and various subject interests that you choose to see and use when on your iGoogle web page.

The Google Powermeter application will take the electricity usage information accumulated from the “smart meter” connected to your home’s electric grid. It will manipulate this information into an informative “real time’ report which you can view for each of your home’s individual electrical devices.

Today it is all about saving money, and when it comes to the electric bill each month, I am all for any information that will cut costs. This new service gives the impression of being a very useful software application.

I believe we could make a difference in our electricity usage habits when we observe the Google Powermeter display on our computer and realize how much money we could be saving by knowing how much electricity is being used by certain devices and appliances.

The Google Powermeter program will also calculate how much electricity we can save by turning down the air-conditioner in the summer, and when it would cost less to operate appliances like the dishwasher or washing machine.

Google says the information about our electricity usage will be stored securely, and none of our personal information will be exchanged with the power companies providing the raw data over their smart meters.

The “Google PowerMeter” will show us what our electricity consumption is in “real-time” using what is called a secure “iGoogle Gadget.”

If homes in your neighborhood are also using the Google PowerMeter, you will be able to compare your household usage and determine if you are using more or less energy than similar homes in the area.

Google says being able to determine what our household’s personal energy information is will allow us to make smart electricity usage choices, which could save us between 5 to 15 percent on our monthly electrical bill.

Making smarter energy choices will not only save money on our electrical bills, but will assist in the overall reduction of our nation’s energy usage. This will help in the reduction of emissions generated that contribute to global climate changes.

Xcel Energy currently has a similar program in Boulder, CO. using smart meters in a project called “SmartGridCity.” SmartGridCity customers are able to view their home’s energy consumption by accessing the Xcel web portal over the Internet.

I wondered if this program might be coming to Minnesota, so I contacted Barbara Williams of Xcel Energy and asked her about the SmartGridCity project.

She was kind enough to tell me, “At the current time, Xcel Energy is concentrating in the Boulder area. This project is new and still in the experimental stages. As time passes and all of the data is gathered, other cities in the country may be added. If this is successful, it may become the way of America to utilize energy efficiently and become part of our renewable energy process.”

More information about Xcel’s SmartGridCity technology program can be found at: http://smartgridcity.xcelenergy.com.

For more information about the Google PowerMeter visit: http://www.google.org/powermeter.

To create your own “iGoogle,” check out http://www.google.com/ig.

On this week’s Web Site of The Week, I will have more information from Google and will add some videos about the Google PowerMeter and Xcel’s SmartGridCity.

Last Wednesday morning I discovered my computer had been reset during the night because Microsoft had downloaded a “critical update” for my Windows XP OS (operating system).

As you know, I decided against upgrading to the VISTA OS.

However, I am considering the new Microsoft Windows 7 OS or, as some are humorously calling, the new and improved “VISTA 2” which may become available in late October.

Windows 7 is currently in closed beta testing – more will be learned as the year progresses.

When Windows 7 is made available to the general pubicly I might decide to buy a brand new computer with the Windows 7 OS and be up-to-date.

Your humble columnist is working on a future column about Windows 7, so stay tuned.