PORTLAND, Ore. Intel's CEO declared the "era of personal energy management" during the chip maker's developer's forum in Beijing this week.
"We were a part of the technology industry that ushered in the era of the personal computer," CTO Justin Rattner said in a keynote address. "We want to be a part of the technology industry that ushers in the era of person energy management."
One of the biggest stumbling blocks to implementing personal energy management is that smart meters being installed by utilities either do not communicate with household appliances or, if they do, they require that appliances be upgraded or retrofitted with sensors and communications lines.
Meantime, Intel has designed its own smart energy sensor that plugs into any outlet and uses a training mode to learn the electronic signatures of household appliances on a circuit. By turning each household device on and off three times, software algorithms can detect the electronic fingerprint of household devices. It then tracks and monitors energy usage without having to install or retrofit hardware.
Also needed is a way to display information gathered by the smart sensor. Intel showed a prototype of an energy display panel that uses data from its wireless energy sensor to monitor usage, recommend more efficient practices and set goals. The same functions performed by the hardware control panel can also built into an application for laptops or smartphones.
"The way you keep consumers engaged over a long period of time is to give them competitive data," said Rattner. "You tell them things like 'the average home in your neighborhood is using half as many kilowatt hours as you'."
Intel's long-term vision is to build an ecosystem for personal energy management with standards recognized by Intel and industrial automation vendors like Honeywell and Johnson Controls. With standardization, Intel hopes to spawn a community of energy conserving apps like sending reminders to turn off lights.
"We should allow applications to interface to our smart sensors using a standard API," said Rattner. "With standards in place, whole varieties of energy monitoring and management systems should be possible, some of which will integrate green technologies such as electric cars, solar cells, wind turbines or even household fuel cells."
Intel expects to roll out devices to consumers later this year, mainly through pilot programs with utilities. "The long-term channel for this device [will be] direct retail and home builders building it into new houses," said Ryan Parker, director of marketing for Intel's Embedded and Communications Group. "In the short term, the channel will likely be the utilities, where they are already doing interoperability testing and pilots."
Intel is currently working with Flextronics as its manufacturing partner and with various OEM partners to develop commercial products based on its new personal energy management platform.
It also is working with Chinese government on smart meter development. "One thing the Chinese are very worried about is overloading their grid when everybody is trying to charge up their electric car at night," said Rattner. "The total grid capacity cannot handle charging up everybody's electric car at the same time, but with standards in place it should be possible to manage a staggered schedule for charging."