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Google opens PowerMeter to energy monitors

Google on Wednesday released the API for its PowerMeter energy-monitoring Web application, a move that could let people get detailed home energy data without the need for a smart meter.

The Web application gives people a real-time graph of electricity usage and historical data with the goal of providing clues on how to ratchet down power use.

So far, Google has partnered with a few utilities which are offering PowerMeter to consumers as part of smart-meter rollouts. One device maker, which makes The Energy Detective (TED) monitor, has an option to display electricity data on PowerMeter.

By making the PowerMeter application programming interface available to outsiders, Google hopes that device makers and software developers will build applications that make energy information available to consumers, wrote program manager Srikanth Rajagopalan on the Google Code blog, adding that the API follows privacy guidelines and give consumers access to their information.

Google started working with smart-meter manufacturers because those two-way meters can be used to track electricity use in detail within a home. For example, one early beta tester of PowerMeter discovered that a pool pump consumed a big chunk of his electricity bill and ran it less frequently to cut electric bills.

There are a number of companies developing home monitoring devices, or displays, which can use different methods for gathering detailed electricity data. For example, TED and Powerhouse Dynamics' eMonitor device are typically installed by electricians who put clamps onto the cables that go into circuit boards to monitor current going to each circuit. Other device manufacturers have proposed getting meter data with a gateway using the wireless protocol used for automated meter reading.

Although Google's goal is to encourage third-party developers to connect to PowerMeter, it's possible that not all device manufacturers will be enthusiastic about doing that because PowerMeter is free at this point. Some energy-monitoring companies are developing proprietary software and, in some cases, plan to charge a monthly fee to get detailed usage electricity information from the Web.