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Markus Turber

10.09.2009

Making things talk 02: How to read out an electricity meter

I am happy to publish the second episode of “Making things talk”. Our interns Fabian and Jonas beard the challenge and responded to Matthias prototype Intuity Lab Session: Making things talk 01 – Controlling lights with your mobile via XMPP. This time we took care about the energy consumption. But I want to be brief – here comes their lab report:

The goal: Get access to metering data

More and more energy providers start introducing “intelligent” electric meters in order to read consumption data over the web. However the real value for customers lies in analyzing this data intelligently and visualizing the outcome in a language people understand.

So our goal for this session was to create a quick prototype to read the meter in order to see how we can use it, remix and combine it with other intelligent objects later on. And and maybe prototype a little smart grid.

How do we get an intelligent meter?

As EnBW is among our clients and we recently had the chance to design an iPhone interface monitoring and visualizing electric energy consumption. So we found such a device in our laboratory.

Readout through the back door. We didn’t succeed when trying to get the data natively thus we don’t know the protocol the electric meter uses to send the data. Luckily the Smart Meter provides a web interface which allowed us to parse out recent power consumption data.

The result

We hacked a small Adobe Flex application that requests the data twice per second using in order to draw a graph. So for example every laptop which is up to WLAN now could use the app to monitor its energy consumption in our lab setup and calculate the amount of money or CO2 that is consumed by this device on a normal working day.

To be continued

We are not sure what the next step will be. It might bring a small prototype visualizing consumption in a more human way. We think about asking our Nabaztag to meter energy with its ears.