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Google PowerMeter expands into New Zealand with device partnership

posted Sep 14, 2010, 9:35 PM by ema-1 ema-1   [ updated Aug 7, 2012, 5:37 PM ]
[31 May: Updated with details of Current Cost individual appliance monitor modules and latest reported accuracy]

Google and Microsoft power management offerings

Google (Google Power Meter) and Microsoft (Holm) provide public web based services which assist consumers to monitor household power use. In the USA Google and Microsoft have partnerships with electricity utility companies who supply usage data from smart meters. Holm is currently US only. Google has utility partnerships in US, UK and Germany.

Google device partnerships

The Current Cost partnership expanding the reach of Google Power Meter to New Zealand was announced Monday May 24.

In addition to Current Cost, Google has previously announced partnerships with The Energy Detective, and Alert Me. These companies all sell usage monitoring devices which can be installed by a consumer. Relevant models offer an option to upload data to Google manually, or upload automatically using a broadband network bridge. 

Of the three, only Current Cost is listed by Google PowerMeter as available in New Zealand. The Current Cost website links to SmartNow for NZ sales. 

Appliance monitoring

Current Cost will also offer optional Individual Appliance Monitor (IAM) modules at additional cost. These modules allow the Current Cost device to monitor individual appliances - one per IAM. Up to nine IAM modules may be used with each Current Cost device. Delivery is expected in July.

Independent software development

Current Cost have publicly documented standards for communication with the device and have attracted an independent software developer community which provides both proprietary and open source software for the device. Google "current cost software" for a selection.

The independent software community have noted and investigated two bugs in Current Cost firmware implementations which further impede accuracy in some situations. Current Cost have not addressed these issues at this time. Representative discussions:
Not smart meters, not as accurate or reliable

It is important to note devices like Current Cost are not smart meters but do provide similar electricity use data. Data provided is less accurate because there is no direct connection to the electricity supply. An inductive sensor is used. In addition, incorrect placement or installation of the inductive sensor in less than ideal conditions will affect accuracy still further. Inaccuracy of up to 40% caused by sensor placement is not unknown.

Accuracy of around 2-5% is claimed by most manufacturers for devices of this type.  NZ news site using information provided by the Australasian distributor reports accuracy for Current Cost as: "CurrentCost's devices are accurate to within 2 or 3 per cent when customers are consuming less than a kilowatt (kW) and to between 5 and 8 per cent when electricity usage is between 1kW and 10kW"

Some commentators have suggested devices like Current Cost will make smart meters obsolete. Clearly this will not happen. Devices like Current Cost cannot provide accurate or verified information to electricity retailers about electricity used, and cannot participate in automated demand management.

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