How Google PowerMeter and Microsoft Hohm Are Not the Same.
Microsoft has joined the real-time energy monitoring fray with Microsoft Hohm, a website expected to launch next week. Details are trickling in from several sources, and it will be all too easy to set this up as a Microsoft/Google death match (against Google's PowerMeter.) But even at this early stage, some clear differences are emerging between Microsoft Hohm and Google PowerMeter.
1. Hohm is talking about measuring all household energy, not just electricity. According to PC Magazine, Hohm will track not just electricity, but also gas usage for households, with propane and fuel oil targeted for launch soon.
2. Hohm will integrate with "Smart Plugs" that will enable detailed usage information about specific appliances, and the ability to control them remotely, a feature similar to one Google recently announced it did not see high value in.
3. Though free to consumers to use, Hohm is intended to drive revenue for Microsoft, initially by selling contextual ads, and later by serving as "a sort of information broker between customers and utilities looking for ways to improve the efficiency of their customers." According to Troy Batterberry, a product unit manager within Microsoft's Energy Management and Home Automation group, the motivation for Hohm is the reduction of usage during peak hours. It appears predicated on the notion that utilities will fund it. At this point, four utilities have signed up. PowerMeter lives within Google.org, and does not appear to have financial aspirations.
4. Hohm's launch is limited to the US, having partnered with two Washington State utilities, one Mid Western utility and a utility in Sacramento, California. Google's partners include an Indian utility, Reliance Energy, as well as Toronto Hydro.
5. Hohm is a recommendation engine, according to its Facebook page, that will use customized analytics to suggest energy conservation tips for users. The website is described as a "Free online beta that helps you save energy and money." Digging deeper, "Microsoft Hohm uses advanced analytics licensed from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the Department of Energy to give you personalized energy saving recommendations." Clearly, this is the Home Energy Saver tool that has been on the web for years. It will be interesting to see how (and if) Hohm differs from this stalwart online self-auditing tool.
6. Initially, consumers will be able to upload their own data whereas Google appears only to be accepting data from smart meters or other devices. It is Microsoft's hope that over time, utilities will provide that service for consumers. To that end, Microsoft is giving utilities a software development kit. If utilities use it, consumer data will be fed directly into Microsoft's application. If not, and in any event at the outset, consumers will have to input their data manually.
7. "Hohm" (Home energy Management with a meditative "ohm" in the middle?) has an on-line personality. It has a Twitter profile and a Facebook page. No sign of PowerMeter on those platforms yet.
We have long championed the need for better whole-house monitoring. Hohm's launch is exciting news, and we continue to welcome all comers that will help us homeowners get better control over our home energy use.