Around 15 years ago, I was involved on the fringes of a trial to integrate renewable energy and smart appliances with the aim of optimising energy demand and generation profiles.
It was horrendously expensive, technically complex and ultimately, was “so far ahead of the parade, it missed the party” . None the less, it was a great example of what was possible, and there is nothing wrong with that.
Today, I got excited all over again, having watched this emerging space since then, when I learned about an incredible new device and platform called the Electric Imp.
The Electric Imp is most simply described as a gateway device; it takes signals from regular devices and sends them via wireless to a cloud based, open source web site.
Developers will be invited to create apps and interfaces for use through smart phones which puts the controller in your hand. Anywhere.
Developed by a cache of IT geek’s hailing from places like Google and Facebook and including iPhone and MP3 designers, it would seem on the surface to be the revelation we have been waiting for, in smart devices.
First, its cost. The monitoring and wireless device is set to retail for $25 and when bought by manufacturers could be “under $1″, according to the site. That makes data collection cheap enough to be in a wide range of devices including for example, power points.
Second, its the apparent ”un-cluttering” of the whole process of identifying, connecting and sending data. If you are like me, you have struggled to weave your way through a variety of codes, passwords and protocols to get something as simple as a wireless modem to work, and these guys claim to have this licked.
If the claims are true, the real world use of these devices should become much easier and more secure.
Another big tick.
Third, its the size that counts. Miniaturisation matters enormously when it comes to device integration and the smaller it gets the wider the range of devices it can integrate into, increasing the flexibility. About the size of a sim card, this is very, very small.
My brain is already ticking over with ways I could use them; a tracking device on the kids guinea pigs (so we can save time when they let them loose in the house), or an override on the washing machine which sends an instagram to my beloved wife saying “honey, you’re using the washing machine at peak rates of $0.42c kWh, here’s a live photo from the beach , go for a swim instead” etc etc.
Ill be watching this closely because if its real, these things deserve to proliferate like, ants (or imps?) Importantly through intelligent apps they should allow seamless integration and control of a boggling array of devices to save energy, optimise distributed generation and collect data for smarter grid networks.
Oh, and Ill finally be able to find the Guinea Pig.
Nigel Morris is Director of Solar Business Services