Greener Gadgets 2009: Audience Picks Tweet-a-Watt as the Design Competition Winner!


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1. Tweet-a-Watt
You may have seen our pre-competition preview of entries into the 2009 Greener Gadgets Design Competition. There were some really good entries, as well as some (frankly) perplexing ones , but the 'gadget' that came out ahead in audience judging was the Tweet-a-Watt. I put gadget in quotes because this really is a new item, just a hack of an existing product. Here's what it's about:The Tweet-a-Watt was entered into competition by Limor Fried, Adafruit Industries and Phillip Torrone of MAKE magazine:

Using "off-the-shelf hardware", we have modified a Kill-a-Watt(TM) power meter to "tweet" (publish wirelessly) the daily KWH consumed to the user's Twitter account (Cumulative Killowatt-hours). We are releasing this project as an "Open source hardware" project - in other words, anyone can make these, modify them and make a commercial product from the ideas and methods.

Here's how it works: The modified Kill-a-Watt uses a "super-cap" to slowly recharge itself. Once there is enough power it turns on the Xbee wireless module which transmits the data to a nearby computer (or internet connected microcontroller, like an Arduino). Once the power usage for the day is recorded it uses a predefined Twitter account (it can be your own) to publish your daily KWH consumption for the day. Multiple units can be used for an entire household.

It's certainly a cool modification, and they do get credit for actually having the Tweet-a-Watt running at the conference, but I can't help but wonder what the real point of tweeting your power usage out to all your followers really accomplishes. There is the social shame aspect, I suppose. But anyone inclined to use the device probably is trying to reduce consumption anyway, so no big revelation will be made.

Though the audience obviously thought otherwise, all the other entries which made the top four seemed more interesting, attractive and practically useful to me. In second place through fourth place (yes, they added a fourth place at the last minute):

2. The Power Hog

Power-Hog is a power consumption metering piggy bank designed to sensitize kids to energy cost associated with running electronics devices. Plug the tail into the outlet and the device into the snout; feed a coin to meter 30 minutes of use.

3. Indoor Drying Rack

This is a sustainable, indoor drying rack for clothing. 96 million people in the United States live in apartments, most without access to a clothesline. 45 million of them do not have dryers in their apartment buildings. The typical clothes dryer is the 2nd largest energy consuming appliance in the home, costing an average of $85 a year to operate. [...] Constructed of bamboo laminate and recycled aluminum, it can be recycled easily, and is constructed from sustainable materials. Bamboo is also naturally hypoallergenic and resists mold and mildew. Predrilled holes allow the user tweak the mounting location side to side while still hitting studs, and it ships flat for maximum energy savings. This indoor drying rack gives millions of people the choice to conserve energy while drying their clothes naturally and privately in their home. When not in use it folds out of the way and adds a modern touch to any interior.

4. Laundry POD: Portable Hand-Operated Laundry Machine

The Laundry POD is perfect for the times you need to do a small load quickly but don't want to waste the energy or a trip to the Laundromat. It's terrific for delicates and hand-washables. The spinning action washes gently, rinses, and then extracts water to improve drying times.

Greener Gadgets 2009
Greener Gadgets 2009: Saul Griffith on Climate Change and the Amount of Renewable Energy Needed to Prevent It (Video)
Greener Gadgets 2009: What Green Materials, Sustainability and Human Benefits Need to be Better Balanced (Video)
Greener Gadgets 2009: Check Out SunNight Solar's Solar Powered-Flashlight
Greener Gadgers 2009: Design Competition Also-Rans (Video)

Tags: Concepts & Prototypes | Electricity | Energy | Gadgets