PowerCost Monitor fills out with People Power app

Despite Microsoft and Google pulling out of home energy, other monitor makers are selling products directly to consumers that bring real-time power data online using a home broadband connection.

Martin LaMonica Former Staff writer, CNET News
Martin LaMonica is a senior writer covering green tech and cutting-edge technologies. He joined CNET in 2002 to cover enterprise IT and Web development and was previously executive editor of IT publication InfoWorld.
Martin LaMonica
2 min read

The maker of the PowerCost Monitor, seeking alternatives to discontinued energy-monitoring applications from Microsoft and Google, today said that its home electricity monitor will work with People Power's software.

People Power's Android and iPhone app, which is available this month, brings a few more features to the PowerCost Monitor's real-time electricity reading, including the ability to set up a monthly energy budget, get energy efficiency recommendations, and compare electricity use to others. It can also get electricity rate data from utilities which have variable prices based on the time of day.

The People Power app lets people compare usage, take quizzes, and compete in energy-saving goals with others. People Power

Over the past few weeks, Microsoft and Google attracted interest to home energy technology by announcing plans to retire their respective applications, Google PowerMeter and Microsoft Hohm. Both companies said they didn't get the customer uptake they were hoping for.

Utilities are one channel for bringing energy monitoring to market but a handful of companies are selling directly to consumers with products that use home broadband connections, rather than a two-way smart meter, to get data online.

The deal between BlueLine Innovations, which makes the PowerCost Monitor, and People Power hinges on a Wi-Fi gateway that transmits electricity meter information over the Internet to People Power's application. BlueLine Innovations makes an optical sensor that attaches onto a meter to read data. It then sends data to a handheld device that shows near real-time electricity use and the Wi-Fi gateway. The monitor hardware and optical sensor, sold online or at Lowe's, cost about $100 and the Internet gateway costs an additional $159.

Another company that is using a gateway and home broadband to get data online is WattVision, which also makes an optical sensor and Wi-Fi gateway priced at $249. Consumers can view information through a Web application.

The idea behind real-time electricity monitoring is that people will get more insight into how they power their homes and find ways to conserve. In addition to finding ways to save money, people can simply get a better idea of energy usage before a monthly bill arrives.

Meter sensors with a Wi-Fi gateway are attractive to consumers who want more control over energy but don't have smart meters. To get more detailed energy usage, some energy monitors use sensors that clamp onto the individual circuits going into a circuit box. Another promising technology that will provide more detail are sensors that can recognize the electronic "signature" of large power consumers, such as large appliances or air conditioners.