Google abandons healthcare and smart grid projects

Google is to shut down its PowerMeter and Google Health services because it has been unable to turn them into mass-market propositions, the company said on Friday.PowerMeter, which lets people monitor their energy contrast usage online, was available to users in the UK and the US.

Google is to shut down its PowerMeter and Google Health services because it has been unable to turn them into mass-market propositions, the company said on Friday.

PowerMeter, which lets people monitor their energy contrast usage online, was available to users in the UK and the US. Google Health — an opt-in personal health record aggregator — was by contrast only available in the US, and only in early beta form. Both projects involved multiple partners in the burgeoning smart grid and healthcare industries, respectively.

In a blog post by Google Health senior product manager Aaron Brown and Bill Weihl, Google's 'green energy czar', the company said PowerMeter and Google Health "didn't catch on the way we would have wanted". However, they promised to help users of the services extract their data before shutdown.

"Both [services] were based on the idea that with more and better information, people can make smarter choices, whether in regard to managing personal health and wellness, or saving money and conserving energy at home," Brown and Weihl wrote. "While they didn't scale as we had hoped, we believe they did highlight the importance of access to information in areas where it's traditionally been difficult."

PowerMeter was first unveiled in February 2009, with Google proposing software that could make smart meter data "available in a standard, non-proprietary format". The company said it was trying to deal directly with consumers through the web app, rather than leave them with only energy industry-sponsored monitoring schemes.

Microsoft had a similar idea with its Hohm energy-monitoring web app, but it announced in April this year that it was axing that service due to a poor reception from the utility companies and consumers.

Google's scheme arrived in the UK in October 2009 with partners such as AlertMe and Current Costs, which made compatible devices to display the energy information.

PowerMeter will shut down on 16 September. On Friday, Google offered the simple advice to customers that they export their data in CSV form before their accounts are terminated.

Google Health, launched in May 2008, will survive longer, being turned off only at the end of this year. However, Google said it will give users another year to extract their data, and they will be able to do so in a variety of ways.

Export options for Google Health customers include printable PDF, industry-standard Continuity of Care Record (CCR) XML and CSV for the records, as well as HTML and XML for 'data notices' sent to profiles by linked data providers, and a ZIP archive for all of this data plus every file ever uploaded to the profile.