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
Peter Evans-Greenwood says
Even if it was possible to easily get data into PowerMeter or Holm, most consumers wouldn’t care. The average consumer is not going to peek at their realtime power data and the run around the house to find the device which is sucking all the power. The target demographic for these services was a very narrow slice of the consumer base, people have a passion for technology and DIY ethic; geeks, if you will.
The reason most utilities weren’t interested was that they could not see enough value for their average customer to justify the integration effort.
Martin Chorich says
Unfortunately, these cancellations were the first I heard of these offerings. But to say these were under-publicized and under-promoted only indicate more fundamental weaknesses as product offerings. What can you do with such information? How does it link to and control specific energy consuming products in the home? PG&E has been busily installing “smart” meters in my service area. I can foresee a day when this could be useful, so long as one can see and control individual power demand sources (air conditioners, refrigerators, major appliances, miscellaneous vampire loads), but until then, this technology appears to place consumers on the wrong side of a “in the Soviet Union, Smart Meters control YOU!” joke.
Hotel energy management says
Yeah, unfortunately often the devices taking up the most energy are the biggest pain to turn off and on. Cable boxes and such.