An Earth Day Valentine for smart metering technology

Welcome to my own personal Earth Day morning nightmare, in which I have just wasted all 10 minutes worth of water trying to get the hot water heater to trigger at my hotel. I have to run a three-hour-long panel session in a mere three hours, and I'm the sort of person who isn't fully awake unless I get my head wet.

Welcome to my own personal Earth Day morning nightmare, in which I have just wasted all 10 minutes worth of water trying to get the hot water heater to trigger at my hotel. I have to run a three-hour-long panel session in a mere three hours, and I'm the sort of person who isn't fully awake unless I get my head wet. So, please excuse any typos while I write first before really waking up. Wet hair in public be damned.

In any event, I found this link in my inbox from Echelon for a promotional video touting smart meters of all things. The Hilton here in Disney sure could have used this technology this morning! I've been meaning to write for some while about Echelon, which I'm used to thinking of as the building automation people from when I covered them a gazillion years ago (OK, probably 12) when I used to be based in Silicon Valley.

Today, there are something like 350,000 buildings around the world that use the company's embedded control network technology, according to Barry Haaser, senior director at Echelon. "These buildings are essentially green, but they don't realize it," he says.

OK, so that may be overstating it, since it takes policy, not just technology, to make a green building. But smart metering will absolutely positively be a part of the green technology future in every place from the data center (where companies such as SynapSense are making a play) to smart grid instrumentation (from companies such as SmartSynch) and building automation (ala Echelon and products such as its networked energy services and servers). Echelon itself is seeing its technology used as part of everything from smart thermostats to networking street lights that can communicate information about outages, as an example. Haaser says Echelon projects that something like 70 million smart meters will be deployed over the next several years as part of both new construction and building retrofits, mainly because the incentives are there for saving energy use. "We will find that there are mandates for government buildings to achieve savings," he says.

Echelon just shipped its one millionth smart meter, which means there's plenty of opportunity.

Addendum: Would be remiss if I didn't mention ZigBee as part of this smart metering rant. According to the latest information from the company, it's working with Reliant Energy, Direct Energy Texas and TXU Energy on residential smart metering projects in Houston and Dallas/Fort Worth. It also is connected with Southern California Edison's SmartConnect program, which includes plans to replace 5 million electric meters with smart meters from 2009 to 2012. It also reminds me that DataMonitor put out a smart meter adoption report last year that predicts smart meters will be in 89 percent of North America households by the year 2012.

Hey Hilton, have I got an investment for you!