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2/10/2009
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Google PowerMeter: For A Planet In Peril

The prototype software will will allow users to receive real-time home energy usage data from compatible "smart meters" and use that information to optimize their energy use.

Having more or less organized the world's online information and made it widely, if not universally, accessible, Google has been looking offline for additional information to oversee.

One place the company is looking is into people's homes. Google on Tuesday announced that it was working on Google PowerMeter, prototype software that will allow users to receive energy usage data from compatible "smart meters" and use that information to optimize their energy use.

Thus climate change will be forestalled and Earth will be saved, or something like that.

The company made the announcement in a blog post that explains its broader effort to encourage the development of a "smart grid," a next-generation electrical distribution system that supports bidirectional energy and revenue flow.

"Google's mission is to 'organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful,' and we believe consumers have a right to detailed information about their home electricity use," said Google engineer Ed Lu. "We're tackling the challenge on several fronts, from policy advocacy to developing consumer tools, and even investing in smart grid companies. We've been participating in the dialogue in Washington, D.C., and with public agencies in the U.S. and other parts of the world, to advocate for investment in the building of a 'smart grid,' to bring our 1950s-era electricity grid into the digital age."

Smart meters, a key component in a smart grid, differ from standard power meters in that they can provide real-time energy-use data and price data to utility customers.

At present, there are about 40 million of the devices in use worldwide, with an additional 100 million planned over the next few years, according to Google. The Obama administration's recovery plan calls for 40 million smart meters to be deployed in the United States over the next three years. The map below shows where smart meters are being tested:


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