Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Tower of SmartPlugs!

There's something about seeing a large quantity of objects, all the same, which just works for me ... so I have to share this picture of 79 AlertMe SmartPlugs in a stack, part of some stress-test our engineers did a while ago.

Friday, 4 September 2009


One of AlertMe's main aims in the coming year is to help our customers reduce their energy consumption (and thus, the amount of money they spend on energy). We'll be doing this by monitoring electricity consumption, providing personalised feedback and advice and by providing smarter ways to control heating (by far the largest energy hog in most British homes).

It seems like a good idea for people to reduce how much energy they consume, and thus to reduce their carbon footprint. But what's a sensible target? One that seems to be gaining some popularity is the 10:10 campaign, which recommends aiming to cut our carbon footprints (individually as consumers and as businesses) by 10% during 2010.

Most of the targets that we hear about for emissions reductions have time-scales in decades, so setting a specific target for next year (and an ambitious one at that) is a great way to change it from an ethereal hard-to-grasp target into something we can all understand and start to work towards.

The campaign has received some amazing support recently, particularly as the entire cabinet signed up, not long after the entire Conservative front bench did the same.

As you might expect, AlertMe has signed up, and I'm now starting the process of figuring out what our carbon footprint is right now, and how we might reduce it next year. More importantly, we need to find ways to help you, our customers, to reduce your carbon footprints. So here's the deal, if you go along to the 10:10 site and sign up to the 10% reduction target we'll do our best to help you achieve it.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Watt is a pound a year?

We're exhorted to turn off unused devices in our house to reduce their standby consumption, and thereby reduce CO2 emissions from power stations. So it's tempting to ask what the cash benefit is, and the answer is surprisingly high. And there's an easy rule-of-thumb for working it out.

The amount that devices consume in standby varies widely. Older devices often didn't really have a standby mode - they just turned-off their front panel and pretended to be asleep, while still consuming a lot of energy. Evil! For example, one of the AlertMe crew discovered that his old black-and-white laser printer was consuming 60Watts, day and night, keeping the toner fuser warm. And hi-fi's, set-top-boxes etc. can easily consume 20Watts or more.
Even the latest gizmos can have a surprisingly high standby consumption. The colour laser printer I just bought, which has an Energy Star 2009 rating, consumes 17Watts in standby. And of course, it's not just the things on standby that matter - quite a lot of consumer devices are designed to be "left on" permanently, for example oil-filled electric heaters, which can be rated at up to 200Watts.

So what is a Watt, in money?

Well, thanks to a numerical co-incidence, at current electricity prices it turns out that every Watt left switched on for a year costs around £1.00.

So for example my new laser printer, if left switched-on for a year, would cost me £17. It makes little difference how much I actually use it, since the amount of use is tiny compared to the drip, drip, drip of the standby power, day and night, 24 hours a day.

The power rating of devices is usually to be found printed on the device, so for devices that are left plugged-in all the time, without a true standby mode, the number printed on the bottom corresponds to "pounds per year", as well as to Watts.

Festival of Interactive Technology

AlertMe attended the Festival of Interactive Technology in Cambridge yesterday. It's part of the HCI 2009 conference and was an opportunity for companies (mainly local ones) to show off their wares, with a particular emphasis on interactivity.

It was great to see how much interest the AlertMe stand attracted, and also to see some of the interesting (and often wacky) ways in which companies help people to interact with computers and the world. How was Alertme relevant to all this? Partly it's because AlertMe is all about enabling you to interact remotely with your home (controlling things, checking everything's ok, monitoring...) and partly also because as we extend our service and offer more enhanced ways of presenting useful data, it's important that we make our customers' interactive experience as positive and trouble-free as possible.

Our enjoyment of the event was not hindered by the rather excellent travelling Mexican restaurant right outside the front, of course...