Will the UK's 'smart meters' use Google?

Hmm, won't be using the dryer again
Hmm, won't be using the dryer again

It was announced today that the government is looking into supplying every home in the UK with a smart meter to measure your house's power consumption, cut down on bills and generally make everyone that little bit more savvy about the energy they use on a daily basis.

Fantastic, we hear you cry. But there's one small problem: the devices used to measure power in the home are expensive bits of kit which give off very little information about your power supply, merely letting you know if you are using a lot of power or, er, not a lot of power.

They may tell you a pence per minute breakdown of your energy use, but what you really want to know is exactly what gadgets are eating into your power supply, costing you an arm and a leg because you've left them on standby.

Big costs

As £7 billion is the cost being touted to get the UK all smart metered up, there's going to be a lot of money spent on some pretty rudimentary technology. But not if Google has anything to do with it.

Back in March, TechRadar ran a '10 cutting-edge apps you've never heard of' feature where we looked at a variety of applications doing the rounds that have somehow evaded the public.

One such app was by Google.org, a not-for-profit subsidiary of Google which is dedicated to "use the power of information and technology to address the global challenges of our age."

Giving consumers control

The app in question is the Google PowerMeter. Currently in prototype, the app utilises the power of a smart meter and provides real-time information for free about your power consumption in the home.

The annotated graph shows exactly how much power your HDTV, toaster and every other electrical gadget costs you every minute of every day.

According to Google: "Many of today's smart meters don't display information to the consumer - we consider this unacceptable.

"We believe that detailed data on your personal energy use belongs to you, and should be available in a standard, non-proprietary format.

"You should control who gets to see it, and you should be free to choose from a wide range of services to help you understand it and benefit from it."

While some may see Google's data mining as another way to figure out just what you use the most electricity on in the home, it just shows the breadth of use the search giant has with its technology. Technology it is letting consumers use for free.

Google PowerMeter

It may be still in a beta stage at the moment (and targeted at US users) but Google PowerMeter and other software of its type is something the UK government should seriously look into.

Knowledge is power and when it comes to energy saving, the more consumers now about just where the money they spend on their gas and electricity is going, the more they will want to save cash and the environment in return.

Google's app may well be the key to making the long overdue smart meter initiative work.

Marc Chacksfield

Marc Chacksfield is the Editor In Chief, Shortlist.com at DC Thomson. He started out life as a movie writer for numerous (now defunct) magazines and soon found himself online - editing a gaggle of gadget sites, including TechRadar, Digital Camera World and Tom's Guide UK. At Shortlist you'll find him mostly writing about movies and tech, so no change there then.