Saturday, April 11, 2009

Fat Socket

OK, time for another addition of the Fat Knowledge million dollar business idea series. Same rules as always. As I am too lazy to make this happen, everyone should feel free to take this idea and become filthy rich with no need to compensate me at all. All I ask is for a little "Inspired by Fat Knowledge" acknowledgment somewhere.

This week's edition: the Fat Socket.

What does the Fat Socket do?

The Fat Socket allows you to continuously measure the electricity consumption in your house to determine exactly what devices are using how much electricity on a socket by socket basis. With this information you will be able to reduce your electricity consumption lowering your monthly bill as well as your environmental footprint. It also lets you remotely turn sockets on and off either manually or on a schedule.

How does the Fat Socket work?

The Fat Socket looks like a standard wall socket that sticks out an extra inch or so. To install, you simply remove the current plastic cover by removing the screw, and then replace it with a Fat Socket which plugs into the current socket. No need to turn off the breaker or have an electrician come out. You can replace as few or as many sockets in your home as you want. The Fat Socket optionally comes with either a small LED that shows that is is working or a large LED that changes color based on how much electricity is being used.

Each Fat Socket records how much electricity is being used (similar to the Kill-A-Watt) and then sends that information back to the Master Socket (either wirelessly using Zigbee communication or power line home networking). The Master Socket automatically finds all the other Fat Sockets in the house when it is plugged in the first time.

The Master Socket then sends the information from all the Fat Sockets over the internet to the Fat Socket website. This is done either via a home network (via a USB cable to a networked computer, or to a router via Ethernet or WiFi) or using a 3G cellular connection (ala the Whispernet of the Kindle).

How does the website work?

The Fat Socket website (accessible via your computer's web browser or a smartphone/iPhone) allows you to graph how much electricity is being used socket by socket, device by device. It allows you to determine exactly how much each devices is using each day, week or month. It will then make suggestions on how you can reduce your consumption.

You will be able to track how you have reduced your energy over time. You will also be able to compare consumption with your friends. It will also be able to determine the environmental impact of your consumption including your carbon footprint. It will be able to hook into Google PowerMeter and other online sites such as WattzOn to help you further visualize your consumption.

You can also use the website to set a schedule for when the sockets should be turned off. This can be used when you go on vacation or when you are trying to eliminate vampire power (for example, shutting off the power on a plasma TV in the middle of the night). It could also be used to limit how much energy your air-conditioner or refrigerator used in the middle of the day when electricity prices are highest and shift that to later times when electricity is cheaper.

How much will it cost?

My hope would be that each Fat Socket would run $10-$15 and the Master Socket would go for $25. This would allow an apartment to be rigged for $100-$150 and a home for around $250. Possibly the website could charge a monthly fee, or that could be included in the hardware cost.

Who is the target consumer?

The early adapter is an enviro-nerd that want to completely understand and fine tune their electricity usage. It will appeal in particular to apartment dwellers who can't use monitoring solutions that require access to fuse boxes or power meters. Then as the system became cheaper and simpler to use, it would appeal to anyone with enough technical savvy to operate a Tivo who wants to save money on electricity or have more control over their power sockets. Eventually this technology can be installed when new houses are being built, reducing costs further.

And the catchy tagline?

Put your electricity consumption on a diet with the Fat Socket.

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