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Greenwave: Smart Meters Need Smart Sockets

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

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With increasing pressure to reduce carbon outputs, Tom Jowitt talks to a company that is using technology to help the home interface with smart metres and save energy

The UK government intends to get everyone onto a smart meter, which will help consumers reduce their electricity bill and be more efficient, but the idea has faced a lot criticism. A US company has turned up with a suggestion – smart meters need smarter sockets.

Europe is predicted to have 100 million smart meters by 2014, and the UK intends to lead this wave. Secretary of State for Energy in the alliance government, Chris Huhn, has promised to speed up the Labour governments smart grid plans, and begin the mandatory smart meter rollout in 2013.

However, smart meters have faced at least three specific criticisms. Firstly, the rollout is expensive and utility companies do not want to subsidise it. Secondly, the meters are a potential security risk and it is feared that they will be rolled out before they are secured. And finally, smart meters will generate a mass of detailed data, and it is not clear that users will feel it is worth the investment of time it will take to understand that data, and act on it by changing their behaviour.

An American company, Greenwave Reality, is seizing the opportunity in carbon-conscious Europe to address that last point. While the smart meter watches the overall electrical consumption, Greenwave is selling smart sockets which – it says – can take the grunt work out of understanding the details of the energy usage of each individual device.

Greenwave is very much focused on educating consumers about their energy consumption, and strengthening the relationship between utilities and consumers by giving consumers more visibility into their energy consumption, thereby ultimately reducing their power bills. The product will only be available via utilities.

Home Energy Consumption

The idea is that users simply plug in their home electrical devices to GreenWave’s “smart power strips”. Greenwave’s patented technology identifies each specific device and networks them via a “smart gateway”. This allows users to easily monitor and control devices in the home from a central portal. It also offers an option whereby they can control devices via their smartphone.

“The key thing is that we are focused on the consumer market only,” Greg Memo, CEO of GreenWave Reality told eWEEK Europe UK. “The way we do that is by monitoring and controlling devices in the home, so consumers can understand their energy consumption.”

“The core of what we do is ease of use, the second key is affordability so that the return on investment (ROI) works for everyone, and the third point is scalability, as our platform has a modular architecture,” said Memo.

Greenwave offers a basic starter kit which includes a six-node power strip, a one-point plug, an energy display and an IP-based wireless gateway to link everything together at a cost of about $200 (£128). The platform can work with Z-Wave or ZigBee wireless mesh networks.

The idea is that your plug your home devices, such as a TV’s surround sound system or dishwasher, or home PC, into the power strip. The gateway device then allows the user to monitor their energy usage. This allows users to see that the surround sound system or water heater is using a lot of power when it is not used, and allows them to turn it off with the gateway or the push of a button on your smart phone, which also gives users the option to manage their home devices whilst out and about.