IN OCTOBER Google launched a software service called Powermeter, partnering with a number of firms to receive and analyse power information from a variety of home devices.
At the same time a company named Alertme released a £69 - plus £2.99 per month - device called Alertme Energy that uses Google's Powermeter and offers UK residents a chance to track their power usage.
In the last few days, this INQ hack has been watching Google's Powermeter, installed on his Igoogle homepage, monitor his home power usage with interesting results.
The device comes in two main parts - a glowing 'Nano' hub that attaches via ethernet to your home router and a wireless battery-powered combined power monitor and transmitter.
The power monitor has a cable that simply attaches around your mains cable running into your electricity meter box.
Alertme also provides other products that use the Internet connected hub, including motion detectors, cameras, buttons, lamps, and key fobs - the majority of which are used as security devices for your home.
Once connected, the power monitor is paired to the hub via an online setup tool and the device is then ready to use. I noted that the firmware for the devices was also updated automatically via the installation process with the minimum of fuss.
Alertme then offers a link to add Google's Powermeter applet directly to Google's version of a personalised portal, Igoogle. This can be seen pictured below, maximised on the page.
There isn't a great deal of information available via the widget, but then the usability of the tool is in its simplicity.
As you can see from the screenshot below, there is a running graph of electricity usage over a daily period, and there are also weekly and monthly views. It provides a quick look at the numerical value of your power usage for the last couple of days, and then another sliding graph representing your usage in relation to others, and in which type of home they were monitoring.
What was interesting in this hack's home was that my usage was running fairly high for a typical home when only my TV and PC were running.
Switching off half a dozen consoles and set-top-boxes soon brought my power usage down, which is something you'll find yourself doing once you've installed this device, and which presumably is the main reason for investing in one.
Apart from this one-off eco-drive, you might not find yourself using the device much more than having the odd cursory glance at the widget on your Igoogle page.
However, I've already found myself switching off multiple devices at the mains in an attempt to have my graph at the lowest possible figure whilst away from the house.
Also, larger houses and families might use it more frequently to monitor a household's effectiveness at keeping power consumption down, using the graphical information to pass on tips to lazy teenagers or less than eco-friendly dads.
You can also purchase smart-plugs from Alertme that allow monitoring of single device power usage and enable devices to be powered on or off via the Internet and from your mobile.
Apart from Google's Powermeter widget, your devices can all be managed via your own Alertme dashboard over the web, which is a very simple and usable web 2.0 interface that will manage all Alertme products connected to the main hub.
If you're looking for a home power monitoring solution, with optional security accessories, the Alertme setup might be the way to go.
However, for such basic statistical feedback, it could take some time for the device to pay for itself, especially considering the monthly surcharge for Alertme's web-enabled monitoring services.
I'll be keeping an eye on my power usage over the next few months to see if using this Alertme device has any noticeable impact on my power bills. µ