Ole Miss to tweet its electricity use

SmartSync's meters to supply the public with play-by-play power consumption of buildings on University of Mississippi's campus as part of green effort.

The University of Mississippi is letting the world in to observe its power consumption in real time.

As part of a green initiative guided by its Office of Campus Sustainability, the university is installing SmartSynch's SmartMeters to monitor and transmit data on the power consumption of lights, appliances, computers, and climate control systems in its buildings.

The SmartMeters contain software and hardware that give electrical meters their own Internet Protocol (IP) address and communicate data via the types of wireless networks used for cell phones back to a centralized virtual dashboard that can be accessed by utilities or customers.

Lyceum's August 13 Facebook status: "(10.46kWh usage, 0.15 kWh peak) Bad day all around. Usage up 7.93% and peak up 6.67%." Facebook/University of Mississippi

The University of Mississippi is already monitoring its historic Lyceum, the John Davis Williams Library, the Gillom Sports Complex, and some of its stadium facilities, and has plans to install SmartMeters in more buildings in the coming months.

In the spirit of social-networking transparency, the ongoing collection of data for the university often known as Ole Miss will also be published in real time on public Facebook, Twitter, and RSS feeds. Each building will have its own Twitter channel and Facebook page. Details on where students, faculty, alumni, and others can subscribe will be posted to the school's green initiative Web site, according to the University.

Besides providing the community with a glimpse of how much energy university buildings can consume, the data will be archived for further analysis. The university hopes to determine how things like weather and the habits of its population effect power consumption, and what it can do to lower that consumption.

Monitoring buildings to determine usage patterns--such as the use of Sentilla devices at San Francisco's Moscone Center to look at power and temperature changes during the JavaOne 2008 conference--has become a little more common in the last few years. But Ole Miss seems to be to be one of the first to put its community usage out there for all to see.

Is it wise to let people observe (and pass judgment on) how much power a university's old and new buildings consume?

I'm guessing that the University of Mississippi is no more wasteful than the next institution of higher learning. But if reader responses on past stories of energy consumption are any indication, the general public does not realize how much energy is collectively consumed.

Of course, maybe that is part of Ole Miss' plan.

SmartSynch CEO Stephen Johnston has insisted through several public statements that the biggest catalyst for conservation he's seen is when people come face-to-face with their own usage data.

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About the author

In a software-driven world, it's easy to forget about the nuts and bolts. Whether it's cars, robots, personal gadgetry or industrial machines, Candace Lombardi examines the moving parts that keep our world rotating. A journalist who divides her time between the United States and the United Kingdom, Lombardi has written about technology for the sites of The New York Times, CNET, USA Today, MSN, ZDNet, Silicon.com, and GameSpot. She is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not a current employee of CNET.

 

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