Search Engine giant Google has previewed a monitoring tool that should allow businesses and households to track their electricity usage in realtime, over time and ultimately enable them to save money.
Google's starting point was the fact that most people pay for electricity after they have used it and there is no way (or impetus) to modify consumption on the fly based on data gathered in the past few hours.
The PowerMeter application solves this problem by tracking electricity usage on a per-hour basis and is easily available on an iGoogle homepage - either on your desktop or through your mobile phone.
Customers can save up to 15 percent on average according to trials performed by Google but deploying this technology will require significant investments as smart meters will be needed to collect the data.
There are already 40 million smartmeters worldwide and more than 100 million should be added in the next few years. According to Landis and Gyr, a major supplier of smart meters, each costs roughly £400, which translates, in the UK alone, into a £10 billion tab.
The gains are impressive, says Google, which calculated that a ten percent cut in America's households energy consumption could take the equivalent of 16 million cars off the road.
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Every little helps. Google's plans to push for a reduction in energy consumption dovetails with the US president's urge to cut America's reliance on foreign oil. In Lord Kelvin's own (immortal) words, "If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it".