Wednesday, April 15, 2009

5 Potential Fat Sockets

I have recently become aware of 5 companies that are producing or are close to producing products similar to the Fat Socket. Lets take a look at their cost, availability, and functionality. All allow you to monitor your electricity usage on a socket by socket basis in real time and have also the ability to shutdown power to any socket.

Earth2Tech had a roundup of 10 monitoring tools from which some of this information was pulled. It also features some other monitoring tools that work off of the power meter or fuse box, such as the Onzo.

1) Visible Energy

Explanation from Earth2Tech:

The strips include energy-management software and electronics that will automatically record appliances’ consumption, storing such data for up to two months, and enable users to control those appliances via their iPhones, iPod Touch devices, or computers.

The first of these, called UFO Powerstrip, is a flying saucer-shaped disc about 11 inches in diameter with a rubber top that flips up to reveal four sockets in different colors, and space for hiding cords. The single-socket Monostrip, meanwhile, is both suitable for larger appliances and can fit into tighter spaces than the UFO. The third, the Load Monitor board, connects to homes’ electric panels to monitor their circuit breakers.
It is estimated be in production by the end of summer at a cost of less than $200. It connects to the local network via power line home networking. I like the functionality, but would rather it fit over my existing outlet.

2) EnergyHub

Earth2Tech explains:
“It’s basically an ultra-mobile PC (UMPC),” explained Frader-Thompson to us in an interview. The dashboard contains enough computing power to provide detailed Google-style spreadsheets for programming your energy usage; it also offers features such as one comparing last week’s energy use to this week’s, or your home’s energy usage to that of other EnergyHub users.

And CEO Seth Frader-Thompson tells us the startup is planning to start selling directly to consumers as well as to utilities sometime in the middle of 2009. He says it also won’t cost more than a few hundred dollars.
More from their website:
The dashboard device also houses the Internet connection, ZigBee wireless connection and a touchscreen interface. You can supplement the Starter Kit with our Sockets and Strips. Plug them into your regular outlets, then plug in your appliances and devices as you would normally. The touchscreen dashboard receives the wireless data from the sockets and strips, configures appliances in each room, and organizes the information in a way that’s easy to read and manage.
That picture is just what I had in mind for a Fat Socket. This device also allows you to monitor and manage your thermostat. Looks pretty good, and hopefully not too expensive.

3) Vera

This system is a complete home automation system. Beyond monitoring the output from wall sockets you can also use it with door locks, security cameras, light switches, thermostats, garage door openers, window coverings and alarm sensors. The demo video explains more.

Available now to the retail market, but super expensive and kind of buggy based on the message board. Thanks to Jeff for the heads up on this one.

4) Tendril
Tendril sells a combo of energy management services, including a wireless in-home energy display, a smart thermostat, a web-based energy portal, smart outlets and cell phone apps that can help homeowners diagnose and cut energy consumption.

Tendril Volt is a 3-prong, ZigBee® enabled electrical outlet that can be plugged into a standard wall outlet to monitor the energy efficiency of any electrical appliance or device. When used in conjunction with the Tendril Residential Energy Ecosystem (TREE) or Tendril Vantage, multiple outlets in the same home can be tracked individually or as a group over the Internet giving you unprecedented insight into and control over your household energy footprint.
Also allows you to control your thermostat. Available now but only through your utility, and no word on cost.

5) GEO
Home Energy Hub, comes in three display options: a small one-panel display, the Solo, which shows real-time pricing and consumption; the two-paneled Duet, which shows energy management of up to six appliances; and the Trio, which is a large touchscreen that can monitor up to 100 sensors.

Consumption data is gathered by a range of sensors. It is an adaptor which plugs into the socket and the appliance plugs into the adaptor. Not only does the adaptor measure the energy consumption, it also monitors various safety parameters (such as loose connections). It includes control functionality whereby the appliance can be switched off from the screen either manually or by means of a time switch.
Available in summer 2009 for those in UK, no word on price.

While all of these devices are similar to the Fat Socket, none of them are currently available to the retail market at an affordable price. That still leaves an opening for the Fat Socket, unless one of these companies or another comes out with it first.

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