Friday, March 20, 2009

Wattvision and The Others

Yesterday Wattvision presented at YC Demo Day. They did a great job presenting the company, which provides a device for monitoring your home electric usage in real time. They have a device that attaches to your electric meter and optically reads it, sending back data through the internet so you can graph it in real time.

I was particularly interested in Wattvision because I've been trying to find a solution like this for a while. There are a few options out there. Here's what I've found so far:

The PowerCost Monitor from Blueline Innovations also uses an optical sensor but it reports back to a device in the home, so it's not internet enabled but has the same ease of installation as the Wattvision solution. Similar sensor to Wattvision, but closed system.

The Energy Detective (aka TED) from Energy, Inc. is a hard wired solution. You open up your circuit breaker box and put a couple clamps on the incoming power lines to monitor the electricity. The sensor then reports back to a display unit (like PowerCost) or a USB doohickey that plugs into your computer. This this is better than the PowerCost solution as you can get the data into your computer. However, you have to buy extra software from Energy, Inc. that only runs on Mac or Windows. (No linux support.) It would be much better if they opened up the protocol so anyone could use it. I'm sure it could be reverse engineered, but they should just support something like Extended Environments Markup Language (EEML) and/or Pachube. Compared to TED, the Wattvision solution is better in that it connects directly to your WiFi.

In England there is a device called the Current Cost meter. The Current Cost solution has a single clamp rather than two smaller clamps like the PowerCost meter. See a picture of the clamp below. Presumably, this solution won't work in the US because of the differences in the electrical systems. It seems to have quite a hacker following in the UK, which should be a clue for the US vendors. Open your systems and you'll have a much better chance of success. Hopefully the Wattvision folks will take a more open approach. The fact that they're using WiFi and the Internet are good indicators that they may be more open than their competitors.