Friday, September 16, 2011

Google and Microsoft back away from online power metering

Google PowerMeter and Microsoft Hohm are online web applications that enable consumers to analyze their energy usage and provide energy saving recommendations. The basic idea is to have an  application in the cloud that is using predictions, smart meters, and energy monitoring devices in order to provide you with information and recommendations about your home's power usage.

While Google's application came for free, Microsoft's tool was planned as a product to create revenue. Now, both projects are discontinued. PowerMeter was retired by Google in September 2011, joining the club of Google Wave and Google Health. In Google's official blog, the reason is only briefly stated as "efforts have not scaled as quickly as we would like", which leaves room to some interpretation. Microsoft's Hohm will be discontinued on May 31, 2012 due to a lack of consumer uptake.

This is sad, since a comprehensive user interface with web integration is a major asset in comparison to existing powermeters with their limited LCD displays and gray buttons. Remember, we are talking about an appliance that is basically planned to enter every household, not just being a tool for geeks. We certainly need a convenient user interface here.
With the bailout out of Google and Microsoft, two important drivers of innovation will be missing, on the other hand this might open the market for new developments. Apple, having filed a patent on a smart-home energy management dashboard system seems to be planning something, but it's still unclear what we will get.

Video on Google's PowerMeter when they were still enthusiastic

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