Google, Microsoft, shutter their home energy management offerings

Google PowerMeter

Last week Google announced that it was shutting down its PowerMeter application (a screenshot of which is above). A couple of days later Microsoft divulged that it was closing its PowerMeter competitor, Microsoft Hohm.

This is very disappointing because the two products were decidly disruptive and, as Google mentioned, studies show that having simple access to energy information helps consumers reduce their energy use by up to 15%. Both services cited lack of uptake as the reason for their termination.

In Microsoft’s case, there is a very good reason why this was so, it never opened up Hohm beyond the US – if you only allow 4% of the world’s population access to your application, you can’t really claim to be surprised if you don’t see significant uptake.

PowerMeter though, in its announcement said –

our efforts have not scaled as quickly as we would like, so we are retiring the service

Why then did Google’s PowerMeter not scale, despite being open to all comers?

Simply because Google were too early to market, I suspect.



Being a trailblazer meant that getting data into PowerMeter was not trivial. The only way to make it easy for data entry would have been if Google managed to sell its services to utility companies but Google had very little success with this approach. Why would utility companies allow Google access to their customer usage data? That was never a runner.

The alternative was to use a device like a CurrentCost – an in-home energy meter which had the ability to upload its data to PowerMeter. However, as I detailed in this post, there were multiple problems with the CurrentCost meters which meant they were never a reliable option for PowerMeter data entry.

Obviously, if you can’t get your data into PowerMeter, it is not going to be of much use to you.

The need for real-time energy information is obvious. It is very difficult to identify wasteful electricity practices when you receive your consumption information (i.e. your bill) up to two months after you used it.

So what now?

Well, it looks like we are back to getting this information from our utility companies. Things are changing (albeit at a glacial pace) on that front though. As I mentioned in my post on Centrica’s Smart Meter Analytics implementation, the technological barriers to rolling out a compelling home energy management have come way down.

Now if utility companies actually roll out energy management applications properly, we could see significant reductions in wasteful energy use.

Photo credit Tom Raftery


How long until all devices which consume water have networked flow meters?


Photo credit bmitchellw

Oracle published the results of a very interesting study recently called Testing the Water: Smart Metering for Water Utilities.

Now, we have all heard about the compelling case for Smart Meters for electrical consumption (I have written and spoken about it extensively) but in this study Oracle asked utilities and their customers about the benefits of rolling out Smart Meters for managing water consumption.

Part of the reason for undertaking this study was that water shortages are already being seen in the South East United States, Western Canada, and Southern California.

In fact, according to the EPA’s WaterSense site:

  • At least 36 states are projecting water shortages between now and 2013.
  • Each American uses an average of 100 gallons of water a day at home.
  • Approximately 5 to 10 percent of American homes have water leaks that drip away 90 gallons a day or more! Many of these leaks reside in old fixtures such as leaky toilets and faucets. If the 5 percent of American homes that leak the most corrected those leaks?it could save more than 177 billion gallons of water annually!
  • The average [US] household spends as much as $500 per year on their water and sewer bill and can save about $170 per year by installing water-efficient fixtures and appliances.

Some of the results of the Oracle water study show that:

  • 68% of water utility managers believe it is critical that water utilities adopt smart meter technologies
  • 76% of consumers are concerned about the need to conserve water in their community
  • 69% of consumers believe they could reduce their personal water use
  • 71% of consumers believe receiving more detailed information on their water consumption would encourage them to take steps to lower their water use
  • 83% of water utilities who have completed a cost- benefit analysis support the adoption of smart meter technology

So, the public is concerned about water conservation and believes that more information would help them reduce their consumption of water. The majority of utility managers also believe smart meter technologies are critical, so things are looking rosy so far.

The data output from smart electricity meters is extremely granular and yields very specific energy footprints. With this data it is trivial to identify the devices using the energy down to make and model of the machine. However, this is not the case for smart water meters. Their output is far less granular – it will be quite difficult to map water consumption data from smart meters to individual devices within the house (unless there are flow meters attached to all the devices using water, for example).

What if though, you could tie-in the output of your electrical smart meter and your water smart meters? Analysing the data from the two meters it should be possible to identify at least some of the devices using water (fridge, dish washer, electric shower, etc.). Having this information tied-in to make and model of device would be extremely useful to help identify more water efficient appliances.

Because, for the most part, your water and electricity utilities are separate companies (or different business units within a utility), this is not a solution they are likely to pursue. However, there has been a surge in the number of 3rd party companies working on Home Management Software applications/devices.

Most recently we’ve seen that Apple are looking into the home energy management space, but others big names already involved include Google, Microsoft, Intel and Panasonic to name but a few.

With consumer’s actively interested in receiving more information about their energy and water usage and with the value that this data has, it is a no-brainer that Home Management Software will manage water consumption as well as energy in time.

How long before it is mandatory that all devices which consume water have networked flow meters and all homes have smart water meters?