Google Powermeter and Microsoft Hohm Turned Off
Homeowners and Utility Providers Alike Reject Energy Tracking in Homes
Late last month, Google and Microsoft each announced that they will be shutting down their respective energy tracking software projects for homeowners. Both released in mid 2009, these projects will come to an end in the coming year, Google’s Powermeter September 16th, 2011 and Microsoft Hohm May 31st, 2012.
Using very basic structural information along with geographic location and an algorithm for predicting energy usage, Hohm gave homeowners a summary of their annual energy use and compared the home to others in the area. Hohm also recommended energy conservation strategies geared towards saving users money. Actual electricity data could be added manually and automatic importation of the data was available to subscribers of three west coast energy companies who partnered with Hohm.
Interfacing with smart meters and other electricity monitoring devices, Powermeter tracked a home’s energy use, updating every 15 minutes and allowing users to see their energy use in real time and view weekly trends. Additionally, Powermeter’s energy reports could be viewed on mobile devices, so users could check on their electricity usage even if they were away from the computer. Google managed to partner with one west coast utility to install smart meters in the homes of their customers.
Why the Shut Down?
In a blog post, Google mentioned that “PowerMeter has helped demonstrate the importance” of home energy tracking, but stated that their “efforts have not scaled as quickly as we would like” as the reason for the shutdown. Microsoft had similar sentiments, saying that Hohm “has helped demonstrate the critical role of information in helping people and organizations improve how energy is generated, distributed and ultimately consumed” but ultimately blamed “slow overall market adoption” for ending the service.
Even though these services were offered to the public for free, both companies cited a lack of demand for why they are abandoning the projects. Additionally, a lack of willing partnerships with utility companies severely limited the scope of Hohm and Powermeter. With apathy on the part of providers and consumers it seems as if these projects were destined to fail.
What Does This Mean for Energy Tracking?
Although this is a clear delay on the residential side of things, we think it is only temporary. The failures of Powermeter and Hohm demonstrate a lack of enthusiasm for home energy tracking on the part of consumers and utility providers, but this doesn not mean awareness is not growing. In fact, companies like EarthAid and Opower are having success in the very same market that Google and Microsoft are leaving. New energy tracking laws and ordinances throughout the country are indicative of a growing trend and legislators on the federal level are getting involved as well. Large software companies may be back quite soon.