We Need More Devices that Tell us About Their Usage

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smart device

Well, how? What do I mean by that?

Simple, really – we need more devices that actually indicate, in a simple way, how much power they’re drawing from our house.

But when I say in a simple way, what I really mean is in a way that’s simple for us to understand. Which means that under the hood, it’s actually quite complex.

 

Why This Isn’t The Case Right Now

For precisely those reasons, really. Companies who make and sell water heaters, air conditioners, and washing machines aren’t generally in the business of developing software and consumer-friendly readouts that measure the amount of electricity being used by this particular device and then feed it back to the customer in a coherent way.

And it’s not just the technology that’s a stumbling block – it’s not exceedingly hard to install a meter and a display, after all – it’s figuring out how much your electricity bill is, how much your house is using as a whole, and then adjusting what the device tells you based on that information.

 

Gentle Nudges are the Key

And this is by no means impossible – Google has their PowerMeter solution which takes us part of the way there, but it’s going to be tough to reach a “fully integrated” solution like I’m talking about.

So what do I mean by gentle nudges, anyway? I mean a system by which, through non-aggressive prompting, we’re all encouraged to seriously reduce our consumption in a way that doesn’t feel awfully painful.

Picture this typical day:

  • You get up, and hop into the shower. As the minutes go by, a waterproof screen estimates how much each additional minute of hot water is going to cost you at the end of the month.
  • You head over to brush your teeth, and the faucet does the same.
  • You left your espresso maker turned on all night, and it’s there in the morning to remind you – in actual dollars and cents – what that’s gonna cost you.
  • Before you go out, your air conditioner tells you how much you’ve spent running the AC all morning.
  • When you get home and do your laundry, you’ll get a clear estimate on the cost of running that dryer for 40 minutes. Maybe you’ll hang up the clothes instead?

None of these examples are particularly drastic, but they all need something that we don’t have right now – electronic devices, our energy company, and basically the entire “grid” of our house to be completely integrated.

I’ve got no doubt we’ll eventually get to a point like that in the future, but right now we have small, individual examples from companies like GE and koolhaus.