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Intel, Google and Microsoft eye the clean tech world
Many people in the information technology business wonder if there's a Moore's Law for green technology - a way to rapidly speed up innovation and product performance.
Clean energy-related technologies do indeed improve with more investment in research and higher deployment. However, the pace of change is much slower in energy because of the size of the industry, the money required to launch new technologies and the dependence on government policies, which tend to move slowly.
Even with those big differences between IT and energy, the large IT and web companies have been moving into different corners of energy, either investing directly in renewable energy or trying to develop products for sale to improve energy efficiency.
Intel is developing smart-grid technology to make the grid more efficient. Above is a prototype of a home energy control and management panel, where a person can monitor electricity consumption in detail, control networked appliances and schedule heating and cooling.
Intel, which released a reference design for the panel in October, is also trying to sell its chips to other companies making home energy-management gadgets.
Photo credit: IDEO-Nicolas Zurcher
Like other large software and hardware providers, Microsoft has a business unit focused on selling to utilities, many of which are investing to make energy delivery more efficient.
Part of that effort includes Hohm, a web application for consumers to track energy use and get recommendations on how to improve efficiency at home.
Microsoft has signed a few deals with utilities to feed energy usage directly into Hohm, but it's also trying to connect to home energy monitors that don't require a smart meter. Earlier this year, it announced a deal with the maker of the PowerCost Monitor, which is now making a wi-fi gateway to transmit electric meter data to Hohm via a home broadband connection. People can view real-time electricity usage and get historical data to better understand how much different energy appliances use.
Photo credit: Martin LaMonica/CNET
Competing neck-and-neck with Microsoft for web-based home energy monitoring is Google. Its PowerMeter web application gives people a real-time read-out of electricity usage and, with the aid of a smart meter, can give details on what different 'plug loads' - appliances and electronics - use in a home.
Google says that it intends to expand the capabilities of PowerMeter over time to monitor gas and water, to potentially schedule electric vehicle charging and participate in utility demand response programmes.
Photo credit: Google