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To save energy, thermostat becomes mini computer

SilverPac releases a sleek-looking touch-screen display that combines the functions of home energy monitoring and a programmable thermostat.

Smarter than your average thermostat. SilverPac

There are dozens of companies making in-home displays designed to help consumers shave energy use at home. But SilverPac is packing many of those features into a high-tech thermostat.

SilverPac, which makes digital picture frames and other media electronics, on Monday introduced the SilverStat 7, a sleek device that combines the heating and cooling controls of a programmable thermostat with a real-time energy display.

The company plans to show the energy management system at the Consumer Electronics Show, which starts later this week, then release it in June.

The thermostat is built around a 7-inch touch-screen display that runs Windows CE on Intel's Atom processor. It has a Wi-Fi interface that will allow it to get electricity usage information from smart meters and talk to network-aware appliances on a home wireless network.

It has built-in speakers to play FM radio or music streamed from a home network. People can also use the device as a calendar.

According to the company, SilverPac's in-home energy display will rely on getting information from a smart meter, which means that it won't be accessible to everyone. Even with millions of smart meters expected to be installed over the next three years, many utilities will not be making meter information available over home wireless networks, in part because of security concerns.