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Intel ramps up home energy push with control-panel design

Muscling into a crowded field, Intel releases a reference design for an energy controller, a device for monitoring and managing energy consumption at home.

A prototype of Intel's home energy management panel.
A prototype of Intel's home energy management panel. Intel

Intel has announced a reference design for a home energy-management device, an attempt to get a foothold in the smart grid business and bring Intel's chips to your kitchen table.

At the West Coast Green conference in San Francisco yesterday, Intel Vice President Doug Davis said the design of the tablet-like device, which Intel calls a home energy control and management "panel," is part of the chip giant's efforts to provide tech tools around energy.

The device is meant act as a hub for controlling networked appliances and thermostats and to gather information from smart meters. It's based on Intel's Atom processor and can work with Wi-Fi and Zigbee wireless devices, such as thermostats.

Intel is one of many companies developing products geared at giving consumers better control over their energy consumption. Intel-based home energy controllers can show how much electricity that networked appliances use and give people a touch screen for programming thermostats.

Since it is a mini-computer, it can do a number of other tasks, including work with utilities' demand-response programs to lower electricity use of appliances during peak times. A networked clothes dryer, for example, could step down its power consumption and take longer to do its job. In exchange for participating in the program, utilities would offer a cheaper rate or a rebate.

The reference design for Intel's Atom-based home energy management system.
The reference design for Intel's Atom-based home energy management system. Intel

Intel's reference design can also access the Internet and display video from security cameras. In the past, Intel executives have pitched the device as a home communications center where family members leave messages for each other. Third parties can also design applications for it.

At the conference yesterday, grid networking company Grid Net said that it will be creating a home energy-management system for an Australia smart-gride program. The system will use Grid Net software and be based on Intel's design, according to Earth2Tech. Intel is an investor in Grid Net.