Power to the People

info-graphicGoogle is very much working on ways to stimulate conservation of energy. One of the issues they mention on their blog is that by giving feedback to people it is possible to save lots of energy in homes and offices. Some time ago I was involved in a research study where we looked at research worldwide on this subject. One of the most remarkable ones was a study done in Stavanger, Norway. There it turned out that just by changing the period after which people settle their energy bill (you get a bill every month normally but only once a year the energy company checks if the bill is the same as the real (average) use during the year). They changed the period from one year to two months (meaning the amount used was checked bi-monthly and the bill adapted accordingly). The energy use of households after this went down 8%. Because of the bi-monthly check people where immediately reminded that energy costs a lot during winter. With some extra data the savings grew to 12 to 16%.
This feedback on use can be more fine-grained. At home I am using a plug from plugwise that measures the use of energy of that energy outlet and allows me to test how much I would save by using the built in “stand-by killer” during the night (it is amazing how much energy some appliances use while on standby, my printer uses a whopping 40 watts on standby, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week). An interesting example how ICT can help to lower our energy footprint. Some time ago I also made a blog on a presentation I gave last year.
In Amsterdam we are setting up a project with more than 700 homes where we will be testing what kind of feedback works best (Amsterdam Smart City). Another project I am starting with is the Connected Urban Development where we make it possible to take a look on the energy use in the city and be able to zoom into certain areas, maybe even to an individual level.
The document with the research (like the Stavanger case) you can find here.
It’s the kind of projects that give me a lot of energy!


One of the most interesting developments I see at the moment is the move to ubiquitous ICT. ICT in the form of small unobtrusive sensors, smart ICT that takes the context of the user into account (based on all those sensors) and feedback mechanisms to users that do not use explicit displays do this much more on an “experience” level, e.g. by changing the colour of light. I recently read a book called Everyware (as in Hardware and Software) that says some interesting things on this. Sort of like using computers without really using a computer….
A very nice example of this is the “unpronounceable rabbit“. It connects to the Internet, is able to sniff RFID tags and communicate by talking, changing colours, communicates with his ears and all kinds of other things. And the rabbits can talk to eachother so you can send messages to a friend by just twisting his ears.