Creepiness factor aside, you've got to give it to Google for using social media to spread the word about its home-energy monitoring software. Google knows if you're using it, you're probably going to get your friends to do the same. The more people who use it, the closer Google.org, the philanthropic arm that launched Google PowerMeter last year, gets to achieving its mission: to build products and advocate policies that address global challenges. Global warming is one of Google.org's priorities and Google PowerMeter is seen as a way to help people use less electricity and save money.
Google PowerMeter is a free software tool that works by taking information from a smart meter installed in your home, tracking energy consumption and then sending the data to a customer's iGoogle homepage. With the new social media component, users within a household can activate Google PowerMeter on their own personalized iGoogle page so families and roommates can all track their energy consumption online together. Now mom finally has evidence of how much power little Johnny uses when he's got the computer, iPod and all the lights on at the same time.
Google PowerMeter has signed on with a number of utility partners including San Diego Gas & Electric, TXU Energy, Wisconsin Public Service and German utility YelloStorm. But it's still not widely available.
That's about to change, however. The addition of the new sharing tool and the recent release of the Google PowerMeter API on code.google.com are two indications that a widespread roll out is imminent. The API release will give smart-meter manufacturers access to the core design and code used to build Google PowerMeter. This will allow manufacturers to build home energy monitoring devices that work with Google PowerMeter.
The API release targets the manufacturers, while the new sharing tool goes after the users. Google has to win over both of these groups if it hopes to compete in an increasingly crowded home-energy monitoring market.
Screenshot of Google PowerMeter from Google.org See additional BNET Energy coverage of the Google PowerMeter: