October 8, 2009

Keeping Tabs With Google and TED

Warren Wise  /  Post and Courier

Monitoring device coupled with software tracks electricity use

Dolph Rodenberg of Energy Inc holds a TED energy monitoring device. Google has selected the TED 5000 for use with its PowerMeter software for monitoring home electricity usage in real time.

'This is a huge compliment to us. Google has determined that it's the first monitoring system they want to use for their PowerMeter.' – Dolph Rodenberg, founder and president of Energy Inc. A local company that developed a device for monitoring electricity usage struck a deal this week with Internet giant Google to use its invention as an alternative to digital meter readers.

PowerMeter is Google's free software that allows consumers and utilities to keep up with power consumption through digital readers provided by utility companies.

His firm's TED 5000 device – TED is short for The Energy Detective – will allow Google to relay information on energy usage without having to rely on the so-called smart meter readers that utilities install outside homes and businesses.

Google said it has been looking for an alternative way for its PowerMeter users to keep track of their electricity usage for some time.

Rodenberg, a Mount Pleasant resident, said the partnership has been in the works for more than a year. Several hundred Google employees tested different in-home electricity monitoring gadgets over the past several months and determined they liked the TED 5000 the best.

The monitor can measure in real time exactly how many watts that old beer refrigerator in the garage is wasting or what it costs to blow dry a head of hair.

"You can find those phantom energy bleeds that bleed people to death without them knowing about it," Rodenberg said.

The partnership will provide a "significant boost" to Rodenberg's business from thousands of units sold to tens of thousands by year's end, he estimated. It also could expand Google's reach.

"We can get our software, which is free, to thousands more people," Google spokeswoman Niki Fenwick said. "Right now, only a few hundred customers who are partners with utilities can use it. This way, anyone in North America can get a TED device and get access to our energy-monitoring software."

Energy Inc. is Google's first partner to offer a device that is not classified as a standard smart-meter, but others will be announced soon, Fenwick said.

Rodenberg said the patented monitors run from $120 to $199, depending on the options. Only the TED 5000 is compatible with Google's software.

Once the system is installed in an electrical panel, usage data is transmitted through the wiring system to a piece of equipment slightly bigger than a phone charger. When patched into a router or computer, users can monitor their energy usage at any given moment from a number of technologies, such as portable laptops or smart phones.