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issue: February 2010 ApplianceMagazine.com

Expanded Coverage: Competitive Concepts

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Using remote sensor sockets, the Wireless Appliance Manager from Oregon Scientific allows users to monitor power consumption, carbon emissions, and real-time cost for up to four appliances.

Outside of the appliance industry, there are numerous companies vying for a piece of the smart home energy management market, and for good reason. Pike Research forecasts that home energy management users will reach 28 million worldwide by 2015, with more than 14 million in-home energy information display devices expected to ship in that time frame.

Oregon Scientific (Portland, Oregon, U.S.; www.oregonscientific.com) has taken a simple approach with its Wireless Appliance Manager, which plugs into any home electrical outlet to track electricity usage of up to four appliances. Using remote sensor sockets, a display allows users to monitor power consumption, carbon emissions, and real-time cost for running appliances. Users can even use the display to shut of appliances directly, and a built-in alarm can alert users when their preset consumption goals are exceeded. An advanced version of the manager can monitor up to eight appliances, and an Individual Appliance Manager can monitor a single appliance. All three products are under $100.

Home automation company Control4 has launched its Energy Management System (EMS), which is a bundled product offering that includes an in-home energy controller, a wireless, programmable thermostat, and network management and energy analytics software package. Web portal provider fifthplay (Berchem, Belgium; www.fifthplay.com) has a home energy monitor in development, and big names like Google and Microsoft have developed Web applications that communicate with utilities and help consumers better manage their energy usage.

Intel recently released details on a Home Dashboard concept based on its Atom processor. Intel’s concept uses ZigBee-enabled smart adaptors that allow appliances, sensors, and smart meters to communicate wirelessly with the dashboard. Applications monitor the performance of each appliance over selected time intervals, alert users to anticipated problems, provide maintenance reminders, and make usage recommendations.

An 11.5-in. organic light emitting diode (OLED) capacitive touch screen built by industrial design firm IDEO provides fingertip control over favored applications. The dashboard’s widget-based home screen can be custom configured with favorite applications, and a color-coded analog clock screen provides a reminder of time-of-day energy pricing schedules. A smart thermostat enables users to reduce energy expenditures by adapting settings based on the weather conditions, current energy prices, and the family’s usage patterns. The system is extendable and can support value-added applications such as security systems and air-quality sensors, and users can remotely control all home devices from a mobile phone or PC.

Even innovation leader Apple (Cupertino, CA, U.S.; www.apple.com) has filed two patents indicating it too may have plans to launch into this market with some sort of intelligent-power monitoring device. According to the patents, the device is based on powerline networking technology, which differentiates it from the wireless pilots being conducted within the appliance industry. As pointed out by the Web site Patently Apple, the concept device also includes a unique video projection system the patent describes as “display circuitry that could include a movable display or a projections system for providing a display of content on a surface remote from the electronic device (e.g., a video projector).” This may be similar to a patent the Apple filed in June for a pico projection feature on its iPhones. It is questionable whether or not Apple will follow through with the patents, but some believe that consumer-friendly interfaces like the iPhone may help drive consumer acceptance of remote appliance management.


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