Real-time energy monitoring

Energy & Sustainability
Real-time energy monitoring

A few months ago, I met Mike Costa at Design Continuum. He had a Chumby on his desk which was set to monitor the energy usage of the building. At the time, he was working out the technical details of the system, and now has posted up some info about the project. Here are some highlights:

Real time power monitoring has been proven to effectively reduce power consumption due to waste. It is intuitive to consider that humans need some sort of feedback in order to recognize the presence of waste. For example if one leaves the faucet open one has sound and sight feedback indicating there is waste. What sort of feedback do we have for electricity? None really, this is why these systems can help with waste reduction


The system uses images from a camera to track changes on the power meter, which is then fed through the network, converted to data and ported to the Google Powermeter. The data can then be viewed online from any browser. The history page gives some more context on the data. Check out more about the project’s impact on the Analysis page.

The data can be sent to any device as long as the device has internet access and can read a RSS feed. So a web browser can display it, as well as a cell phone that has internet access.

The data that the Chumby takes comes from this address.

The Chumby application is a simple flash movie that reads from the above RSS feed and displays the data. The color changes from green to red as we use more electricity, so at night, the text will be green/yellow. This is a link to the exact same flash movie that is running on the Chumby. It updates in real time. The data is being served from a web server I built.


10 thoughts on “Real-time energy monitoring

  1. MetPhoto says:

    I have been publishing my own power consumption figures for a while now. I have created some specific web pages formatted for the iPone.

    En example is here:

    I use a CuurentCost ( meter and a small Linux server to gather and publish the data.

    (I have not provided a link to my server because I am sure it would collapse under the strain! I am sure people can track me down if they wish.)


  2. David says:

    The software appears to make use of Google Visualizations, but does not appear to actually upload to PowerMeter. Google has not yet released the PowerMeter APIs for 3rd-party devices.

  3. Mike Costa says:

    Hey David,

    Check out “The Energy Detective” or TED 5000. Its the first 3rd party device Google’s PowerMeter supports. Hopefully Google opens the API up to the average user soon.

    You are right, I use the Google Visualizations tools, they are just to handy to not!

  4. Celadon Enterprises, Inc says:

    Green20Now energy monitoring systems use igoogle graphs to monitor more than one building by logging into a personal google homepage. It’s an interesting solution for commercial office buildings and portfolios of buildings where you have corporate offices far away from the actual buildings.

    For more information, go to or

  5. Savraj Singh Dhanjal says:

    That’s pretty neat. If you want a system like this, check out — they have a chumby widget (similar to what you describe) and views on iPhone and Android.

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