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Belkin offers 'smart' router for smart meters

Real-time access with detailed usage analysis and tips are added to company's line of Conserve smart gadgets.

Belkin Conserve Gateway router offers real-time data and analysis of home energy use in conjunction with a utility smart meter.

Belkin on Thursday introduced a router capable of offering real-time information and advice on home energy use via a Web interface.

The Conserve Gateway router connects with a home's existing smart meter, but is not just an overview of the energy usage for the home. It can be used to monitor and control specific devices and appliances hooked into the home network. It operates via Wi-Fi or Ethernet as a standalone router, or can tie into an existing broadband router, and also has an antenna for ZigBee communication.

The Belkin router software, which like many routers is Web accessible, also provides suggestions for saving energy based on a detailed analysis of the specific habits of the home it's connected to.

Belkin research showed that the average consumer was not as interested in knowing about their kilowatt-hours, but rather the bottom line of cost and conserving energy. So they designed the interface software to be user-friendly and subtle. The tips, for example, include things like the dollar amount one might save if usage habits for a clothes dryer were modified.

"Our system, from the friendly design language of the Gateway to the tone of our user interface, is like a friendly doctor. We want to encourage good health and keep you focused on healthy behavior going forward. There's no sense in yelling at you after you've eaten a bacon double cheeseburger. Let's focus on the future," Kevin Ashton, Belkin Conserve's general manager, said in a statement.

The router augments Belkin's existing Conserve line of gadgets designed to help consumers reduce the amount of electricity that gets sucked down by their electronics. The Conserve Smart AV power strip shuts off stand-by power to things like DVD players in addition to offering the usual surge protection, while still including two always-open plugs. The Conserve Valet is a charger for cell phones and media devices that cuts power to a device once it's fully charged.

But while many products in the Conserve line-up are available for retail purchase, the Conserve Gateway is currently only being offered to utilities. Consumers would receive the router as part of a package along with their smart meter through their utility company. It is not currently available for consumer purchase, according to Belkin.