Instrumented Interconnecteds Intelligent
January, 14th 2010

Twitter Helps My “Smart Home” Reduce Energy Usage and Trim Electricity Bills by One-Third

by Andy Stanford-Clark

The science of how things work has fascinated me for as long as I can remember. As a young lad, I developed a way for my Mum to dry her washing outside without it getting wet when it rained. I set up a simple buzzer that would go off when a sensor detected falling rain. When Mum heard the signal, it was time to grab the laundry off the line.

Andy Stanford-ClarkToday I’m still trying to “connect the dots” of how my family and I can pursue a lifestyle that reduces our use of natural resources.

Using the same “messaging” software I work on with my development team at IBM’s software lab in Hursley, UK, I’ve made my 16th Century cottage on the Isle of Wight into a modern-day “smart home,” so I know exactly how much electricity and water I’m using, and when I’m using them.

While some might scoff at this, having this knowledge has enabled my family to reduce our personal carbon footprint and slash energy bills by one-third.

Here’s how it works: About a dozen wireless sensors are hooked up to the electricity and water systems and other things in the house. The sensors collect information, which is fed into an analytics system that makes “intelligent” decisions based upon that information. The updates are distributed to a display in my house, and as a stream of messages on Twitter, the social networking communications tool, which I can watch on the web, or on my mobile.

The “tweets,” or brief status messages, talk about how much electricity or water is being used, or even if a mouse has been caught in a trap in the attic. I can see unusual activity: if I’ve left on a heater, my home “talks to me,” via Twitter, and I can go find what’s causing the spike in electricity use.

The information on display has become part of the home’s ambient background, like having a light on in the kitchen. You know it’s there: but unless the light starts flickering, you don’t pay much attention to it. Unless my home “tweets” me that something unusual is happening, such as a window left open on a cold day, the messages blend into the household’s background.

Feeling good about helping the environment can be contagious. What if all of us got involved? According to the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change, 47 percent of the country’s carbon emissions come from the way the nation generates heat. The DECC has set a goal of having “smart meters” in all homes in the UK by 2020 to monitor gas and electricity usage.

If you don’t want to wait until 2020, you don’t need a Ph.D. to install and use the relatively inexpensive gadgets available to monitor your energy use and to begin conserving energy immediately.

Sometimes what we do for ourselves can benefit many others.

Like many commuters, I want to spend the least amount of time on my commute.

Strong winds or fog can delay the ferries running between my home on the Isle of Wight and my workplace near Winchester.

By tapping into data available online about the location of the Red Jet ferries, I began timing my arrival at the dock to when a ferry would actually leave. I began sharing this information via Twitter to other passengers. To its credit, the Red Funnel line saw the value in this information, and now the company provides a constant stream of information about the ferry schedule to their passengers who follow the company on Twitter. This is not ferry personnel posting the information to Twitter manually, it’s a tweetject (an object that twitters!). That’s a tricky idea for some people, but it’s at the core of building a smarter planet.

These are examples of how all of us have the ability to make our entire planet “smarter.” We just need to use sensors that operate individually to instrument the world around us, link together the information streams the sensors provide in a network, and then apply intelligence in the form of an analytics system that can recommend appropriate actions.

I look at my “smart home” and use of social networking tools for commuting as steps that I can take as an individual.

If enough of us take steps at the micro level, momentum will build. Smarter buidlings are coming as we think about structures differently: seeing homes not just as living spaces, but as living systems; seeing offices not just as static structures where work is done, but as manifestations of all the ways the world works.

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April 11, 2012
3:03 am

That information is a little outdated. Would you mind doing a little update for us?

Posted by: seo optimizavimas
February 7, 2012
3:33 am

I want a smart house too, not only smart but a green smart

Posted by: kaipnumestisvorio
February 6, 2012
2:31 am

why people love tweeter so much?

Posted by: eteriniai aliejai
November 27, 2011
12:20 am

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Posted by: Ardella Schwindt
November 10, 2011
7:17 pm

I admire what you have done here. I love the part where you say you are doing this to give back but I would assume by all the comments that is working for you as well. Do you have any more info on this?

Posted by: steve
September 22, 2011
6:19 am

I am happy to find this post Very useful for me, as it contains lot of information. I Always prefer to read The class and glad I found this thing in you post

Posted by: onthebroadway
August 12, 2011
10:58 am

Thanks i love your article about Twitter Helps My “Smart Home” | A Smarter Planet Blog

Posted by: invest liberty reserve
October 21, 2010
12:54 pm

Wow! I want those sensors too. How can I have access to that? As much as possible, I’d like an efficient and self-sustaining house. We installed a solar heater to save on energy. The sensors would definitely let me know if there would be a spike in the electricity – no the next billing statement.

We also recycle water. Water from the washer is used to clean the garage and mop the floors. Sometimes to flush the toilets.

Posted by: Caitlin at Buy Backlinks
October 18, 2010
8:35 pm

I simply like the idea of being able to measure and monitor things, without which we cannot possibly begin to drive efficiency. The smart electricity meters being deployed in Canada allows for time-of-day charges where people can avoid peak demand hours for electricity use (e.g. wash clothes at 9pm).

Posted by: David
August 17, 2010
10:49 am

Great post. We are across the pond, but working on trying to reduce our energy consumption. I know this sounds silly, but we reduced our lighting costs by putting lights near wall mirrors and also situating wall mirrors near windows where they will reflect light. we’ve found this reduces our energy bill by about 5%. Also, we now collect rainwater in cisterns and use it to water our yard in the summer months. It’s funny we are not PhD’s or anything like that but as you said, it doens’t take a PhD. In only takes people willing to use their head and spend a little time thinking about ways to be smart.

Posted by: Interesting Use of Wall Mirrors
July 26, 2010
3:53 am

@philipJackson yes, there are various available, but the CurrentCost is the one I use – they sell them on Amazon and Ebay stores for around £40.

Or if you move to a green tariff, or switch suppliers, some energy companies will send you a free one.


Posted by: Andy Stanford-Clark
July 24, 2010
2:24 pm

Are these smart meters available at the moment at a reasonable price?

Posted by: phillip jackson
February 18, 2010
3:59 pm

This just reminds me of our home back in Mainz. My father installed telephone line from house (about 200 m from garage port) so calling in when help was needed after a big shopping was easy to do;-) BTW our dog went crazy when the “garage phone” rang.

Besides that the complete house had cabling for communication, phone. Radio in kitchen, bathroom, basement. Automatic heating, etc.

All happened some 40 years ago without the smart internet stuff and twittering machines.

Now my parents have moved up north to the Baltic Sea. Guess what? The story is repeating, this time with new high tech solutions and so on. My father still is looking for making life easier – especially as they do home exchange (for months) frequently.

Posted by: RalfLippold
2 Trackbacks
August 8, 2010
8:27 pm

The Lost Arts Of War…

…an interestin post over at . . ….

Posted by: The Lost Arts Of War
January 19, 2010
5:48 am

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This post was mentioned on Twitter by JohnSimonds: Twitter helps a Smart Home #green #twitter…

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