Microsoft's Hohm Latches Onto Consumer Energy Efficiency Wave


Screenshot via ReadWriteWeb

Around every corner is a list on how to cut down on your home energy use. The problem with most of these tip sheets is that the suggestions don't fit your circumstances. Usually we skim through and pick out the small handful that apply to us and that we can follow, and discard the rest of the list as useless. It's a fairly dissatisfying process, and Microsoft has recognized that. The company has come out with Hohm, a tipster software that bases its advice on customized information, and eventually on data provided by your utility company. So, what's Hohm? Original reports were that it was the counter to Google's PowerMeter, but a brief look shows that it definitely isn't the same. EnergyCircle has a good layout of some of the differences, but even a glance shows that Google is looking to really be part of the smart grid scene, whereas Hohm is more of a conservation and customized information resource that'll link up with utilities. According to Hohm's website:

Microsoft Hohm is a free online beta application that helps you save energy and money. With Microsoft Hohm you can better understand your home energy usage, get recommendations to conserve energy and start saving. As with any recommendation engine, Hohm will provide increasingly more accurate and relevant suggestions for energy conservation as its users contribute home energy input and feedback. One of the objectives during our beta period is to refine our tool and further increase the value our product can offer to you.

CNET reports that Hohm bases its energy conservation tips on information from the Department of Energy and Lawrence Berkeley national Lab. It is built around the Bing search engine and Azure online operating system, allowing users to tailor advice to their living situation and get more tips they can actually follow.

Additionally, utilities will be able to take part, with a development kit that feeds customers' bills into the system so that users don't have to do the leg work for inputing their data to get customized advice (the most accurate advice comes after answering a whopping 200 questions...). Puget Sound Energy, Sacramento Municipal Utility District, Seattle City Light and Xcel Energy are already taking part, heading up what will likely become a common practice in the future as customers will want this kind of work done for them. It is similar to what Wattzon is working on with getting credit companies and utilities to input customers' information (with privacy provisions) in order to have more accurate carbon footprint calculations for users.

Eventually, customers are going to want to know where they stand and how to cut back, without doing all the information inputting it currently takes to get the info. Hohm will eventually get there. Though altogether, it looks to be somewhat of a sophisticated bridge between common energy efficiency tip sheets, and feedback that'll come from smart meters and home automation systems. Programs like this will one day be obsolete as the smart grid boosts consumer energy information aggregation, but in the meantime, they're likely going to be very handy for consumers to get energy efficiency tips applicable to their lives.

Right now, Hohm is in beta mode for about 9 months, and will be launched after testing. You can sign up for an alert when the program is launched.

Tags: Concepts & Prototypes | Electricity | Energy Efficiency | Utilities

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