Technology for Good – Episode five

This is episode five of our weekly GreenMonk TV Technology for Good Hangout – a show where we discuss news of technology solutions that work to benefit people’s lives. This week we discussed stories to do with Climate, energy/utilities, transportation, health, the internet of Things, and Data Centre’s amongst others.

Here’s a list of links to the stories we discussed today:

Climate news

Energy/Utilities

Transportation/Electric Vehicles

Health

Internet of Things

Data Centre’s

Miscellaneous

Internet of Things connected Philips Hue bulbs review

After we wrote a post about the Lifx, Internet of Things connected LED lights a few weeks back, we reached out to Philips to see if we could get a Philips Hue kit to try out for comparison. Philips obliged and sent us a kit which contains 3 LED lights, and a Hue bridge.

Philips Hue bridge

Philips Hue bridge

As a bit of background, the way the Philips Hue system works is that you receive a device called a bridge with your bulbs which you need connect into your internet router. This device talks to the Philips Hue bulbs over the ZigBee protocol, and also is capable of connecting to the Internet via your router. Thus your Philips Hue bulbs are capable of being controlled not just from inside your home, but also from outside the home using the free Philips Hue smartphone app (available for both Android and iOS).

The smartphone app has a lot of extra functionality built-in. The app enables users:

  • to change the colour of the light coming from the bulbs (across the full spectrum of visible light), as well as the intensity
  • to use pre-built recipes which come with the app for different light intensities and colours. These recipes are editable, and owners can create their own recipes and share them with the Hue community
  • set-up Geofencing, so it’s possible to have the lights automatically go off when you leave home, and come on when you approach home
  • create alarms such that the lights simulate a sunrise early in the morning, or a sunset late at night. The sunrise functionality can be especially useful if you find it hard to awake on dark winter mornings
  • to control lights remotely – this is useful if you don’t use the geofencing functionality and you want to check if you turned the lights off after you go out, or if you don’t want to enter a dark home
Philips Hue Bridge Power consumption

Philips Hue Bridge Power consumption

The bulbs, as can be seen in the video give out good light (600 Lumen at full intensity) over a large range of colours, and using very little electricity. Typical consumption, at full intensity, and a colour temperature of around 3000K, is 5W. However, the bulbs also draw a constant 0.4W when they are turned off by the app (as opposed to being turned off at the physical switch). This is so they can maintain their Zigbee connection to the bridge, in order to be able to come respond to the smartphone app (alarms, remote on/off requests, geofencing, etc.). And the bridge itself consumes a constant 1.6W, so the three bulbs, plus the bridge, have a baseline consumption of 2.8W.

When you compare the 2.8W to 60W from a conventional incandescent bulb, it doesn’t appear to be a huge draw, but over 24 hours it does add up (it is the equivalent of leaving a 60W bulb on for a little over an hour and seven minutes per day).

To avoid burning the constant 2.8W you can of course turn the bulbs off at the wall (or the switch). Then they are no longer in ‘listening mode’ and consume 0W, instead of the constant 0.4W. In this scenario, the electricity draw is reduced to just the 1.6W from the bridge. Over 24 hours this is equivalent to leaving a 60W bulb on for just over 38 minutes. The advantage of this approach is lower electricity consumption, the disadvantage is that the Hue bulbs are no longer connected to the Internet of Things.

This constant nibbling of power by the Hue devices is by no means unique to Philips. By definition any devices constantly connected to the Internet are also constantly consuming power – which raises interesting questions around the costs and benefits of Internet of Things connected devices.

Technology for Good – Episode four

In last week’s Technology for Good show we had lots of stories to talk about. In the show we referenced some very exciting stories in the Energy, Internet of Things, Electric Vehicles, and robotics spaces, amongst others. The links to the stories are below.

As always, if you know of any stories you think we should cover, or someone we should be talking to, feel free to get in touch (@tomraftery on Twitter, or tom at redmonk.com on good old-fashioned email!).

And, as promised, here are the stories which made the cut for last week’s show:

Broadband

Energy

Electric Vehicles

Internet of Things

Robots

Planet

Miscellaneous

Introducing the GreenMonk Technology for Good Hangout

For the last few weeks I have been producing a Hangout on Air which I’m calling Technology for Good. I produce the show live on Friday’s at 2pm CET and it is recorded, and automatically published on Youtube subsequently.

The show discusses news stories from the previous seven days, focusing specifically on pieces where technology works to benefit people’s lives. Those benefits can be in any number of areas. Last week, for example I discussed the latest related news under the headings of Microsoft (Microsoft had quite a bit of news to announce last week, hence it was given a heading of its own), Electric Vehicles, the Internet of Things, Big Data and Privacy, and I had a Miscellaneous heading at the end for any stories which didn’t fit in the previous categories, but still were interesting enough to be featured.

I’ll be producing this show every week, so feel free to look in on it, and to join in the discussions while the show is happening. Also, if you are aware of any news you think I should be featuring on the show, do ping me (@tomraftery on Twitter, or tom at redmonk.com for good old fashioned email). Also, I’ll have guests to co-host the show and interview, so if you think you’d like to be on the show, or if you know someone else that you think would be really good, do let me know.

If you can’t make it while the show is on, you can always catch up with it subsequently on my YouTube Channel

Here are the stories which made the cut for last week’s show:

Intro
Your Warming world http://warmingworld.newscientistapps.com

Microsoft
Microsoft reveals its server designs and releases open source code http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2014/01/microsoft-reveals-its-server-designs-and-releases-open-source-code/

A Major Step Forward: Combining the Fuel Cell and the Server http://blogs.msdn.com/b/microsoft-green/archive/2014/02/05/a-major-step-forward-combining-the-fuel-cell-and-the-server.aspx

Introducing Microsoft’s new CEO: Satya Nadella http://blogs.technet.com/b/firehose/archive/2014/02/04/test.aspx

Satya Nadella: His first interview as CEO of Microsoft http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T8JwNZBJ_wI

Electric Vehicles
Father-daughter duo finish first Tesla Model S coast-to-coast drive in less than a week http://www.extremetech.com/extreme/175564-father-daughter-duo-finish-first-tesla-model-s-coast-to-coast-drive-in-less-than-a-week

Cross Country Rally: Across the Finish Line http://www.teslamotors.com/blog/cross-country-rally-across-finish-line

Internet of Things
How to Be 100x More Productive: The 35 Best IFTTT Recipes http://alliworthington.com/productivity-ifttt/

Internet of Things – Big List of Companies, Products, Devices and Software by Sector http://startup88.com/internet-of-things/2013/10/28/internet-of-things-big-list-of-companies-products-devices-and-software-by-sectorsiddharth-khare-edited/1254

Apple Executives Met With F.D.A. to Discuss Mobile Medical Applications http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/01/31/apple-meets-with-f-d-a-regulators-for-mobile-medical-applications/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0

Enabling Things to Talk http://ibmresearchnews.blogspot.ch/2014/02/enabling-things-to-talk.html

Big Data and Privacy
Alessandro Acquisti: Why privacy matters http://www.ted.com/talks/alessandro_acquisti_why_privacy_matters.html

Refresh unveils Google Glass app that presents ‘instant dossiers’ on people you meet http://venturebeat.com/2014/02/06/refresh-unveils-google-glass-app-that-presents-instant-dossiers-on-people-you-meet/

New York Police Department is beta-testing Google Glass http://venturebeat.com/2014/02/05/nypd-google-glass/

Cryptography Breakthrough Could Make Software Unhackable http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2014/02/cryptography-breakthrough/

Microsoft, Facebook, Google and Yahoo release US surveillance requests http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/03/microsoft-facebook-google-yahoo-fisa-surveillance-requests

Introducing Twitter Data Grants https://blog.twitter.com/2014/introducing-twitter-data-grants

Miscellaneous
HEATWORKS MODEL 1: Your next water heater! https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1132758406/heatworks-model-1-your-next-water-heater?ref=category

Graphene circuit’s wireless promise http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-25944824

Apple and Microsoft join US carriers in $750 million commitment to education http://www.theverge.com/2014/2/4/5377012/apple-and-microsoft-join-us-carriers-in-750-million-commitment-to

Price Of Solar Much Lower Than Solar Savings http://cleantechnica.com/2014/02/01/real-cost-solar/

People as Sensors – mining social media for meaningful information

I gave a talk at our recent ThingMonk, Internet of Things conference in London which I titled People as Sensors – mining Social Media for Good. The talk was principally about the many use cases where the firehose that is social media can now be analysed in realtime, and real, meaningful information can be extracted from it.

Feedback on the talk was extremely positive, so I said I’d post the video here.

Here’s the transcript of my talk:

Thanks very much! People As Sensors, it’s the idea of mining social media for useful information.

Obviously we have heard about the difference between data and information this morning, so we are just going to power through a little bit about that.

This slide deck is already up on SlideShare, so anyone wants to have a look at it, it’s there. I have my notes published, my notes for the slides published with the slides on SlideShare, so if you want to download it, you will get the notes there as well.

So mobile data; every one of us has got one of these little devices, and it’s publishing, not just the information that we publish ourselves, but also a lot of other information as well.

And this was brought home to us in 2009 very clearly when a german politician called Malte Spitz sued Deutsche Telecom because of the data retention laws in Germany that had just been legislated and he asked them for his data, he wanted the six months of data that they had on retention for him.

Can I get a show of hands here for anyone who has not heard the story already? Okay, a good few people haven’t.

So I will just break out of the presentation for a second, because — if I can; apparently it doesn’t want to. Okay, I will just — no, it doesn’t want to. What he did was he published the information in ZEIT ONLINE, and the link is at the bottom there, and all these screens that I have, all these slides that I have, they have a link at the bottom, it’s a clickable link; it’s a clickable link in the PDF on the SlideShare as well, so you can go and you can view this data.

There is a Play bottom in the bottom left there. You can hit Play on that button on the site and you can go through the six months of his life and it plays where he goes.

So when he gets on the train, the little dot there moves along the map, so you can see where he was for almost all the time of that six months. It lights up a little mobile phone icon when he is on the phone, when he is making a phone call or sending texts.

You can see where he sleeps, you can see when he sleeps, you can see when he gets up, it’s all there, and it’s all beautifully visualized. And when you see something as stark as that you suddenly realize, Jesus, we are really publishing a lot of information, aren’t we?

And it’s not just that kind of information; we are publishing a load of stuff in social medial as well. So you just take a quick look at some of the numbers in social media and you realize how big it is. Facebook have announced now that they have got 1.2 billion users and the latest numbers that they published in August, they talk about 4.5 billion likes per month, 4.75 billion items published — oh no, that’s per day. 4.5 billion likes per day, 4.75 billion items published per day, and I have forgotten how many billion photographs. It’s just insane.

Twitter, this is a typical diurnal graph of Twitter tweets per second. So you are starting at kind of midnight on the left, you are going across through the morning. It peaks at around — okay, over there it peaks at around 8,000, a little over 8,000, dips again mid-afternoon, picks up, and then drops off at nighttime. That’s daily.

The average number of tweets they say it’s around 6,000 tweets per second, and this is tweets per day over a 365 day period. You can see 400,000 going up to around 600,000 tweets per day now.

And Twitter are actually selling this data. They announced in their filing for the IPO that they have made about 47.5 million, which is quite modest I would have thought, selling direct access to their data. So people who buy their data from them house their servers in the same complex as the Twitter servers and get direct access to all the tweets that have been published instantaneously so they can mine it there and then.

So it’s not just Twitter, it’s not just Facebook, you have got Google+ talking about 500 million users, 300 million in the stream.

Sina Weibo; we are talking about 500 million users and growing. And you have got other networks as well; Waze, which was recently bought by Google, is a GPS application, which is great, but it’s a community one as well. So you go in and you join it and you publish where you are, you plot routes.

If there are accidents on route, or if there is police checkpoints on route, or speed cameras, or hazards, you can click to publish those as well. It’s a very simple interface, so that it doesn’t interfere with your driving, or it’s minimal interference with your driving. And I will come back to why that’s interesting in a few minutes.

And I am rushing through this because I have got 50 something slides and James wants me to do it in 15 minutes. So here are some of the use cases from all that data, and there are some nice ones out there. A lot of you are probably familiar with this one; it’s the UK snow meteorology example. It was one that was put up a couple of years back and it has been used every year every time there is snow in the UK.

There is a little dash of snow over London there in this screenshot, because there wasn’t one when I went to the site, so I tweeted about it, and got a bit of snow to fall on EC 2 there.

Utility companies are starting to use social media increasingly for outage management. So GE have got this Grid Insight Application, and what they do is if a utility company has an outage in their area, they can look for mentions of the outage on social media channels. And in this picture here you see someone has tweeted a photograph of a tree, which is after taking down an electricity line, so not they have a good idea of what the issue is.

This is in real time. So instead of having to send out an investigatory truck roll, they just send out the vegetation truck roll, and that cuts down massively on the time to get the outage fixed and get people back live again.

And this is another one, you can see here there is a fire in the substation, and it’s right beside a road, and you can see a cluster of Twitter — maybe not, you would have to look closely, but those are the blue dots there, those are little clusters of tweets and Facebook posts, and you have got a Facebook video posted of the fire in the substation.

Other things; the United Nations Development Project are analyzing in real time social media. This is the project they ran to analyze social media, because they want to know when there are likely risks to their people on the ground.

This is one they did in Georgia around the time of the upset between Georgia and South Ossetia in 2008-2009. So they looked at the mentions there and they graphed it versus when the trouble actually happened. So now they are building a model so they can call their people and say, okay, look, it has gotten to the point where it’s getting risky for you guys to be in there, we need to get you out now.

Automotive; the automotive industry are starting to use this. There was an application developed by the Pamplin College in University of Virginia Tech where they started mining social media for mentions of particular, what they call, smoke terms. These were terms which are important for the automobile industry and so they can identify quickly when faults come in cars.

This is a much faster way of reporting faults back to the manufacturer rather than going back up to the dealer network, which can take weeks and months. If they are getting it directly from the consumers, they get it faster, they do the recall faster, and you have got safety issues there, you are saving people’s lives. Plus, you are also having to recall fewer cars because few of them have been sold by the time the issue comes to life.

In the finance industry; this is a paper that was published. It was published in, I think it was 2009, and it said that Twitter can predict the stock market with 87% accuracy, and again, the link is at the bottom, you can click through and read the paper.

So on the back of that this UK crowd called Derwent Capital Management licensed the technology and set up a fund, and it has now become Cayman Atlantic, and they are doing quite well apparently. And there are several other companies who are doing similar now as well, using Twitter to predict the stock market.

In law enforcement social media is huge, it’s absolutely huge. A lot of the police forces now are actively mining Facebook and Twitter for different things. Like some of them are doing it for gang structures, using people’s social graph to determine gang structures. They also do it for alibis. All my tweets are geo-stamped, or almost all, I turned it off this morning because I was running out of battery, but almost all my tweets are geo-stamped. So that’s a nice alibi for me if I am not doing anything wrong.

But similarly, it’s a way for authorities to know where you were if there is an issue that you might be involved in, or not. So that’s one.

They also use it for interacting with people. They set up fake profiles and interact with suspects as well and try and get them to admit and all that kind of stuff.

I have a few extra slides hidden here, because James asked me to crunch this down. If you do download it, you will get all the sides there, and they are some very interesting ones. If you have an interest in the law enforcement angle, there are some great case studies that you can look into there.

Obviously the law enforcement one is one you have got to be very careful of, because you have issues there around the whole Minority Report and Precrime, and it’s more of a dodgy one than many of the other ones I have been talking about.

Smart cities; we heard people talking about smart cities this morning. This is the City of Boston and they have got their citizens connect to application, and that allows people with a smartphone, and it’s agnostic; it can be Android, iOS, I am not sure if they do BlackBerry, but Android and iOS are covered anyway. You can report potholes, street lights, graffiti, sidewalk patches, whatever those are, and damage signs and others.

You get reports back when you report something to the City of Boston, and a couple of other cities are rolling these out as well, but in this particular one, when you report an issue to the City of Boston, you get a communication back from the city telling you who is assigned to fix that particular item you have reported. And then that person contacts you to say when they have done it, and often they will photograph it and you get a photograph of the item you have reported having been fixed by the named person who has done it. So very smart.

Healthcare; healthcare is a big one as well. You are probably familiar with Google Trends and Google Flu Trends, so Google Flu Trends, they take the search data to predict when there are likely flu outbreaks.

Well, they went a step further and they funded this paper, which was published in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, and what they did was they looked at the data, the social media data for mentions of cholera and cholera symptoms in Haiti in 2010 after the earthquake there. And they found that the mentions of cholera and cholera symptoms on social media tracked exactly with the governmental data, so it was an exact match. The only difference being it was two weeks ahead of the government data.

So you can imagine two weeks on a cholera outbreak, the number of lives you could save, so really important stuff.

There is also this fantastic application which was called Asthmapolis and is now called Propeller Health. And what that is, it’s a little device that sits on top of an inhaler, so when you give a puff on your inhaler, it reports it with GPS and timestamp.

So when you go to your doctor, your doctor then can see a map of where and when you puffed on your inhaler, and you get to see it as well. So you start to see patterns in when you used your inhaler.

So you might say every time I visit my friend’s house, I use the inhaler more. They are a smoker. Okay, so now I need to be aware.

Or every time I am on my way to work, when I pass this particular place I use the inhaler, maybe I should take a different route.

But it goes a step beyond that as well. They have gotten the City of Louisville, in Kentucky to roll this out to all their asthma people. And they have a particular issue with pollution in Louisville, because there is a 13 year lifespan difference in people’s expected lifespan depending on where they live in Louisville.

So you live in one place, you live 13 years less than your neighbors. So they are using this application to try and help them identify and to try and help them clean up the City of Louisville, so a really interesting application there.

In CRM, Customer Relationship Management, it was T-Mobile in the U.S. who went through the millions of customer records they had, they went through their billing records, they went through mentions in social media. They had, I think it was 33 million customers, and they were losing customers all over the place.

When they started analyzing the social media mentions, matched it up with the billing records, etcetera, and they started taking preventative action for people they identified as likely to defect, they halved their defections in three months.

So they cut down on their customer defections, in three months they cut them down by 50%. Amazing!

Brand management; a couple of years ago Nestlé got Greenpeace. They were sourcing palm oil for making their confectionary from unsustainable sources, from — Sinar Mas was the name of the company and they were deforesting Indonesia to make the palm oil.

So Greenpeace put up a very effective viral video campaign to highlight this, and this actually had an impact on Nestlé’s stock price, short-term, small impact, but it had an impact on their stock price, as well as the reputational issues.

Nestlé put in place a Digital Acceleration Team who monitor very closely now mentions of Nestlé online and as a result of that this year, for the first time ever, Nestlé are in the top ten companies in the world in the Reputation Institute’s Repute Track Metric. So they are now considered globally as one of the more reputable industries, at least partly as a result of this.

In transportation; I mentioned Waze earlier. So Google Maps have now started to incorporate data from Waze. So right here you can see a screenshot of someone’s Google Maps and it’s highlighting that there was an accident reported on this particular road via Waze, via the Waze App. So that’s really impressive, you are on your Google Maps and now you are notified ahead of time that there has been an accident up the road, you have a chance to reroute.

Also in transportation, this is a lovely little example; Orange in the Ivory Coast, they took, I think it was — I have it noted here somewhere, 5 million Orange users, 2.5 billion anonymized records from their data.

Anonymized released it and said, okay, let’s see what you can do with this anonymized data from our customers. There is a competition. The best use was where they remapped the country’s public transport because they could see looking at people’s mobile phone records where people were going during the day.

So they said, okay, people are going from here to here, but our bus route goes from here to here, to here, to here, let’s redraw the bus route this way where people actually want to go. Simple! Beautiful application of data, the data that we all published all the time, to make people’s lives easier. They reckon they saved the first 10% of people’s commute times.

Looking ahead, and I am wrapping up here James, wherever he is, you have got things like Google Glass, which will now be publishing people’s data as well.

You have got this thing called Instabeat, and what it is, it’s like Google Glass for swimmers. So it has got a little display inside people’s goggles as they are swimming, so they can see how fast their heart rate is; they can see several of the kind of things that you want when you are a competitive swimmer and you are trying to up your game.

And you have got all the usual stuff that we are all aware of, the Jawbones and all these other things that people are using to track their fitness.

More and more we are being quantified, we are generating more and more data, and it’s going to be really interesting to see the applications that come from this data.

So the conclusion from all of this very quickly, data and the data sources are increasing exponentially, let’s go hack that data for good.

Thank you!

Fairfax Water’s Tammy Powlas on producing good quality water cheaply

We talk to utilities a lot here on GreenMonk, but mostly electrical utilities. Recently I had an opportunity to talk to Tammy Powlas of water utility Fairfax Water to learn more about what they do.

It was a fascinating chat we had. Fairfax water makes extensive use of technology and also embue a culture in their employees of putting the customers’ needs first, and as a result, they produce safe, consistent, and cheap water for their constituency. This is vital work considering how important water is to our everyday lives.

Here is a transcript of our conversation:

Tom Raftery: Hey everyone! Welcome to GreenMonk TV. I am talking today to Tammy Powlas who is a senior business analyst with Fairfax Water. Tammy, water utilities, it’s an interesting field and one that we don’t talk about enough often. I think people take water for granted often, but it’s one of our more valuable resources. Can you give us a bit of background first on Fairfax Water? What kind of size are you, who do you deliver water to, and what kind of challenges you’re facing, that kind of thing.

Tammy Powlas: Okay, yes, Fairfax Water, we are the largest water utility in the State of Virginia. Currently, we serve 1.7 million people water, and one out of every five Virginians gets their water from us. We serve the Fairfax County and surrounding counties. One of our challenges or immediate challenges is we’re acquiring two new water utilities in our area. The other thing about Fairfax Water, we pride ourselves on being one of the lowest cost water utilities in the Washington, D.C., Virginia, Maryland area.

Tom Raftery: Great! So you give cheap water to people. Does that necessarily mean that’s good water?

Tammy Powlas: Oh, absolutely! We have a lab group who does testing. We have two sources of water. They are very active in testing that. Our customers can request at anytime, what’s the quality of the water. So we pride ourselves on giving the best lowest cost water in the D.C. area, and it’s always available.

Tom Raftery: And to coin the phrase, do you eat your own dog food, are you a –

Tammy Powlas: Yeah, I am a Fairfax Water customer. I live in Fairfax County. I have been a Fairfax Water customer since 1999. I’ve had good service from Fairfax Water as a customer. I do eat my own dog food, yeah.

Tom Raftery: So how do you manage to keep the prices down?

Tammy Powlas: Well, for us, I think it comes from the general manager on down. We are public sector water utility, I forgot to mention that. So revenue, we’re not tied to revenue, but we pride ourselves on always doing what’s the least cost or what’s the most cost efficient thing for our customers. So everything always has to have a business case. We do a cost benefit analysis, and it’s always questioned from the general manager, the finance manager, is this going to fit our customers, is this the best solution for our customers. So we pride ourselves on always thinking in those terms and the whole company does.

Tom Raftery: Okay. Is technology helping out at all?

Tammy Powlas: Oh, absolutely! We’ve been using the SAP utilities solution since 2004, and that has really helped us integrate all our solutions together from billing, from maintenance, and very importantly, financials. So that helps us manage the cost, manage our maintenance, manage our bills, everything is all together. We have integrated financial statements in SAP that even using a business object software, it’s all come together and really helped us be more efficient for our customer.

Tom Raftery: Okay. I mean water utilities, and utilities in general, have large issues around infrastructure management. How do you handle that?

Tammy Powlas: That’s handled also in SAP using the Plant Maintenance Solution. We’ve been lucky, because our infrastructure is relatively new compared to our surrounding utilities, surrounding jurisdictions like Washington, D.C. which to me has a lot of issues with the aging infrastructure. So for us, we’re very active in predicting what’s going to go wrong, planning our maintenance, so that’s part of our whole company.

Tom Raftery: Sure! I mean what are plans moving forward for tech roll outs and the interesting projects on the horizon, to help you better serve your customers?

Tammy Powlas: Oh, absolutely! For sure after data migrations, I would see it’s giving more visibility into how our customers are using the water, how am I consuming the water, how do I compare to my neighbors. So we’ve been relatively lucky. We haven’t had to tell our customers to boil the water, we haven’t had water shutoff, we don’t regulate the water and say you can only water on every other day. So we’ve been fairly lucky with that. But, I think given that people want to be more sustainable, I think they are going to want to see how am I managing my water and how am I consuming and how do I compare to my neighbors.

Tom Raftery: And smart meters?

Tammy Powlas: Smart meters, we have not looked at that yet. I think that is coming. What’s interesting is some of these jurisdictions that we’re getting, they have automated meter readings, and I think that will come. I think that’s got to be on the horizon. I am giving you my personal opinion, I don’t speak to Fairfax Water but I think that’s going to happen for sure, because I think the customer demand hasn’t happened yet, but I think that’s going to happen over time.

Tom Raftery: As people see the advantages of the smart meters for electricity.

Tammy Powlas: Yeah, absolutely! I can see that today with my own electric bill. I can log on and do all that and there’s a lot of benefits to that and there is a lot of incentives for the utility company as well.

Tom Raftery: Okay, cool! Tammy, that’s been great. Thanks once again for talking to us today.

Tammy Powlas: Absolutely! Thank you, thank you Tom!

9 things you need to know about Lifx’s Internet of Things connected LED light

Philips 12W CFL bulb

Back in September 2012 I saw a Kickstarter campaign entitled LIFX: The Light Bulb Reinvented. The campaign promised to deliver

a WiFi enabled, multi-color, energy efficient LED light bulb that you control with your iPhone or Android

This sounded great. Energy efficient, LED bulbs which could change colour to match/create moods, and which you could control from your Smartphone? Where do I sign up? Well, I signed up on the Kickstarter page, obviously.

This morning, the Lifx bulbs I bought were delivered, so I decided to put them to the test.

The photo at the top of this post is of a lamp in my home powered by a 12W Philips CFL bulb. I swapped out the CFL for the Lifx LED bulb and I was immediately impressed with how quickly it lit up and how bright it is.

Here’s a comparison of the same lamp with first the CFL bulb, and then the Lifx LED bulb:

Both lamps side by side

The photos were taken with identical camera settings* but look different due to the different brightness of the lights, and the different colour of their light. The lamp on the left is being lit by the Philips 12W CFL bulb, while the lamp on the right is being lit by the Lifx 17W LED wifi connected bulb.

A few comments in favour of the LED light -

  1. While it may look like the CFL bulb is brighter, in fact, that’s because most of its light is aimed downwards, while the LED bulb’s light is beamed upwards away from the table. In fact, the LED bulb is considerably brighter
  2. While not obvious from these photos, the LED bulb lights up instantaneously, whereas the CFL takes a good minute to come to full brightness
  3. The CFL is one colour, but the LED is whatever colour you set it to and
  4. The LED can be controlled from its Smartphone app over wifi
  5.   
    On the other hand –

    Side by side comparison of CFL and Lifx LED bulbs

  6. The LED bulb is much bigger and heavier than the CFL bulb (this may, or may not be an issue for you)
  7. The LED bulb generates a LOT of heat
  8. The LED bulb, when turned off by the app, still consumes 2.7W of electricity (maintaining wifi so it can be turned on again presumably). To avoid this, it needs to be physically turned off at the switch.
  9. The LED bulb is expensive ($89 in the Lifx store) and
  10. Unfortunately the Lifx bulb is not remotely accessible – you need to be connected to wifi to turn it on or off, so if you’re out and realise you’ve forgotten to turn your lights off, there’s no way to turn them off from your smartphone (unless the very cool Revolv app starts to support Lifx bulbs).
  11.   
    And one more bonus thing you need to know (added after I was alerted to this by Andy Piper and I confirmed it as an issue with my Lifx bulbs)

  12. If you switch the Lifx bulb off at the wall, the bulb forgets its previous setting i.e. if you like a warm yellow light, and set it to that colour, as soon as you turn it off at the wall, it reverts to its default bright white on turning on again.

Bottom line – the Lifx bulb is a nice little bulb and a great job by its developers for a v1.0 of their first product. Having said that, its main competitor seems to be the Philips Hue series of wifi connectable, colour variable, smartphone controllable bulbs, and they’re for sale on Amazon.com for $59.97 which is far cheaper than the Lifx at $89. Also, Revolv support the Hue series of bulbs, so it is likely they are remotely controllable. Given that, unless Lifx addresses particularly the cost issue, I’d have to advise anyone interested in Internet of Things connected lighting to look at the Philips solution instead. If I get my hands on the Philips bulbs, I’ll review them here subsequently.

One final note, the Philips CFL bulb rated at 12W was actually drawing 13.5W, while the Lifx bulb rated at 17W was drawing between 17W and 18W.

*Both photos were taken with the camera on full manual mode with shutter speed at 50, ISO at 200, aperture at 4.5, and white balance set for fluorescent light (4000k approx).

University of Nottingham reports on its managed print services contract

Xerox printer cubes

Back in January of this year, Xerox announced that it had entered into a five year £9.2m agreement with the University of Nottingham to help better manage its diverse print resources.

The agreement was predicted to save the university 25% in print costs year on year, allow for the management of its printing operations from a central location, and reduce the number of printers from 3,700 devices down to 700.

In a blog post on the University of Nottingham’s Sustainable Nottingham site, Chris Carter, from IT Services posted on some of the results of the project:

The University now has:

  • devices which are ‘Energy Star’ rated, go into a low power mode after 20 minutes of inactivity and to sleep overnight automatically,
  • print jobs released only when present at the print device, thereby eliminating numerous uncollected prints,
  • printing on both sides of paper set by default,
  • paper with 75% recycled content,
  • consumables provided just in time and stocks are reduced across the University,
  • a ‘closed loop system’ where waste products are collected by Xerox, remanufactured or recycled, and put back into the supply chain.

The benefits of these changes are evident in the first 10 months of 2013 with:

  • a saving in excess of 26,000 Kg of CO2
  • more than 2 million sheets of paper – equivalent to 132 trees – being saved by purging print jobs not released for print
  • 76% of all print jobs now printed duplex

There have also been many fewer deliveries by third party suppliers to University campuses, the on-site team use an electric vehicle to deliver paper and consumables and the on-site engineer walks to many jobs rather than having field engineers visiting campus by car.

Xerox are managing out of the University all waste ink and toner cartridges through their reprocessing streams and will be working with us to ensure appropriate recycling or further use of any unused consumables.

As the rationalisation of desktop devices is completed over the coming weeks, the impact of these savings and increased sustainability of The University of Nottingham will only increase.

That’s a nice list of benefits for the university in the first 10 months of this agreement. We’re also told that this programme has saved the university approximately £2m so far, so it should achieve a return on investment within the lifetime of the project. Nice.

SAP Startup Focus in newly industrialised countries

Vishal Sikka, SAP CTO

As we have said before here, sustainability job number one is putting bread on the table. To that end, it was great to see SAP’s Startup Focus program take off so well, gaining over 1,000 companies signed up in less than two years.

We profiled the Startup Focus program here on GreenMonk earlier this year, talking to three of the participant companies about it. They were very enthusiastic about how it had helped them break into the enterprise software market, and said they wished they’d joined the program sooner.

More recently, we spotted news from TechEd Bangalore that SAP CTO Vishal Sikka announced there that of the over 1,000 companies who have joined the Startup Focus program, 158 of the come from India. I’d love to know what percentage of the Startup Focus companies overall come from newly industrialised countries, and what level of employment they are helping create.

The Internet of Things is bringing Electricity 2.0 that much closer

One of the reasons I started working with GreenMonk back in 2008 was that James heard my Electricity 2.0 vision, and totally bought into it.

The idea, if you’re not familiar with it, was that as smart grids are deployed, homes will become more connected, devices more intelligent, and home area networks would emerge. This would allow the smart devices in the home (think water heaters, clothes dryers, dish washers, fridges, electric car chargers, etc.) to listen to realtime electricity prices, understand them, and adjust their behaviour accordingly. Why would they want to do this? To match electricity demand to its supply, thereby minimising the cost to their owner, while facilitating the safe incorporation of more variable suppliers onto the grid (think renewables like solar and wind).

That was 2008/2009. Fast forward to the end of 2013 and we see that smart meters are being deployed in anger, devices are becoming more intelligent and home area networks are becoming a reality. The Internet of Things, is now a thing (witness the success of devices like Nest’s Thermostat and Protect, the Philips Hue, and Belkin’s WeMo devices). Also, companies like Gridpoint, Comverge and EnerNoc are making demand response (the automatic reduction of electricity use) more widespread.

We’re still nowhere near having realised the vision of utility companies broadcasting pricing in realtime, home appliances listening in and adjusting behaviour accordingly, but we are quite a bit further down that road.

One company who have a large part to play in filling in some of the gaps is GE. GE supplies much of the software and hardware used by utilities in their generation, transmission and distribution of electricity. This will need to be updated to allow the realtime transmission of electricity prices. But also, GE is a major manufacturer of white goods – the dish washers, fridges, clothes dryers, etc. which will need to be smart enough to listen out for pricing signals from utilities. These machines will need to be simple to operate but smart enough to adjust their operation without too much user intervention – like the Nest Thermostat. And sure enough, to that end, GE have created their Connected Appliances division, so they too are thinking along these lines.

More indications that we are headed the right direction are signalled by energy management company Schneider Electric‘s recently announced licensing agreement with ioBridge, and Internet of Things connectivity company.

Other big players such as Intel, IBM and Cisco have announced big plans in the Internet of Things space.

The example in the video above of me connecting my Christmas tree lights was a trivial one, obviously. But it was deliberately so. Back in 2008 when I was first mooting the Electricity 2.0 vision, connecting Christmas tree lights to the Internet and control them from a phone wouldn’t have been possible. Now it is a thing of nothing. With all the above companies working on the Internet of Things in earnest, we are rapidly approaching Electricity 2.0 finally.

Full disclosure – Belkin sent me a WeMo Switch + Motion to try out.