People Power Bring ESP to the Smart Grid (Video)

osian chipboard image

Image via People Power
People Power, a company we first learned about a couple years ago at West Coast Green, is moving into more serious territory than the energy-saving Facebook app launched earlier this year. Current trends show we're on a path to have over 100 billion devices connected to the Internet by 2020, and People Power is getting ready to be ahead of that wave when it comes to energy efficiency with it's new Energy Services Platform, or ESP, an open and scalable energy management system that will help us monitor and manage our energy use by linking everything that sips electricity up to the cloud. Like many other services out there today, People Power provides visibility to energy consumption, allowing a homeowner to see, down to the plug level, where their energy bill is being distributed throughout a home. But unlike many similar services, People Power has created an open source software that follows IEEE standards so that it can grow along with the smart grid.

People Power states, "The new platform provides visibility into the energy efficiency of products, letting manufacturers build a layer of 'energy control' into a range of products, from business equipment like copiers and printers, to consumer electronics and appliances such as televisions and refrigerators."

ESP works with OSIAN, or Open Source IPv6 Automation Network, but is also compatible with Wi-Fi and ZigBee enabled devices. This means that users who have appliances or devices that use (the so far more popular) ZigBee standards will still be able to link that device up to ESP to monitor energy use. One of the major differences between OSIAN and the more well-known ZigBee and Wi-Fi is that OSIAN uses a frequency of 900 mHz instead of 2.4 gHz, which means devices can communicate over much longer distances. People Power states that their tools can reach at least twice the range with half the power of Wi-Fi and ZigBee devices, though they've tested them at often reaching 3 to 4 times the range. This will be attractive among appliance and device manufacturers looking to include this technology in their products to make them "smart" devices.

The company is already working with some big names in the tech industry to embed its technology into appliances, power strips, electronics and office equipment. Their user dashboard, which also can be accessed via iPhone or iPad, allows customers to monitor energy use, control appliances and devices from afar, compare their energy use to their own past use, and even compete with others via Facebook.

"Manufacturers everywhere are investing in building green hardware, but they also need great software to create a total green solution. Our mission is to help these manufacturers and give them the tools they need to improve energy efficiency and save their customers money," says Gene Wang, CEO and Founder of People Power.

The company will offer their software to consumers starting in 2011. Pricing isn't announced yet, but it will be subscription-based with an annual fee along with a one-time set-up fee.

People Power is certainly not the only company well aware that Internet-connected devices are the next wave of energy awareness and efficiency. However, does this level of control really appeal to the bulk of consumers right now? Is this something people will use on a daily basis, or is it novel for a moment, then quickly becoming TMI? This is something the industry is still trying to figure out. We're too new at having this technology, and too new at trying to be energy efficient to really know exactly how services like this will be accepted in the consumer market as early as 2011.

That said, we need tools like this, no doubt about it, and there are numerous companies working to provide them. People Power is setting itself up to be in place and ready to go when things like knowing whether or not the bedroom light was left on and being able turn it off from their iPhone is finally a must-have capability for consumers.

Here's a short video that shows off what their sofware is capable of and where it's headed.

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