"What gets measured gets managed." You may have heard that one at work... numerous times. It applies at home, also, and numerous products exist to help you measure your electricity use, and manage it in a more efficient manner. You may have used a Kill-a-Watt, or read about Google Power Meter with anticipation. Yesterday, a handful bloggers got on the phone with Ron Dembo, CEO of Zerofootprint, to discuss their upcoming answer to smart energy management: the TalkingPlug.
Like the Kill-a-Watt, the TalkingPlug simply requires a wall outlet: you can plug it in, and then plug in an electronic device. Armed with an RFID chip, the device not only measures power usage, but "talks" to the Internet, and records and tracks the data collected through Zerofootprint's VELO Pulse software. You only need to plug in the device, and input some basic information about the appliance connected to TalkingPlug; from that point, you'll be able to track that appliances power usage (and the carbon emissions associated with it). Dembo describes the TalkingPlug as "microsmart": it provides the users with more detailed knowledge about power use than, say, Google Power Meter because it functions at the level of the individual device which consumes energy.
The TalkingPlug also functions a bit like a programmable thermostat: you can program it to power down energy hogs and vampires at times when you wouldn't ordinarily use them.
A Changing Culture of Energy Use
In our discussion, Dembo spoke of the TalkingPlug as part of a "'culture change" in how we approach energy management, and our own resource use. Today, still, we often don't know much about how energy's being used in our homes... we just know it's there (and definitely know when it's not). Technology like this provides the home and business owner with information s/he couldn't access previous... and that information empowers the user to make the right choices based on his or her values and lifestyle. You can easily see how the appeal of device like this isn't necessarily centered on an environmentally-conscious audience... anyone who just wants to spend less on electricity may find it attractive.
The TalkingPlug is still in development, and the current price forecast is relatively high: $50 per plug-in unit. Dembo believes that finding ways to scale the production of the device, and create value not just for consumers, but also manufacturers of appliances and electronics, will bring that down relatively quickly.
I was intrigued by the concept: smart metering ability without rewiring or purchasing new appliances. As Ariel Schwartz at Fast Company noted, it may end up being more of a bridge technology: once actual smart appliances hit the mainstream, the value of something like the TalkingPlug may diminish. In the relative short-term, though, this seems like a really handy concept...