Gallery: THE ENERGY ORB: Visualize Electricity Consumption!

 

As energy-conscious citizens, wouldn’t it be great to know the best (and cheapest) times to use more or less energy? Thanks to a clever little gadget and an equally clever manager at the Southern California Edison power company, that info could easily be at your fingertips with the Energy Orb. Southern California Edison power station manager Mark Martinez was looking for a way to get his customers to use less energy, and repeated automated text messages, emails and phone calls were not doing the trick. Then he hit upon the Ambient Orb, a glowing globe that changes color to represents changes in streaming data (weather, stock prices, etc). With a simple hack, Mark hooked the Ambient Orb up to his local grid, and created the Energy Orb, a device to visualize current grid load, and the relative price of electricity at any given moment.

In Martinez’s Energy Orb, the light pulses red when energy costs are high and glows green when they’re lower. Not only did Mark pioneer this brilliant idea, but he went one step further, and purchased 120 Ambient Orb globes to hand out to his customers….

The result was an impressive 40% reduction in energy use for those customers with the energy orb!

To what can we attribute this amazing success? Martinez thinks its because the glowing sphere is constantly communicating with you — its more persistent, and simply less annoying than a text alert or email (both approaches he had tried, unsuccessfully). “It’s nonintrusive,” he says. “It has a relatively benign effect. But when you suddenly see your ball flashing red, you notice.”

Electricity is essentially invisible, which is why we waste so much of it in the home — leaving re-chargers permanently plugged in sucking up vampire power, and electronic devices idling in power-slurping “sleep” modes. We can’t see that our houses account for nearly a quarter of the nation’s energy appetite; we don’t know when the grid is nearing capacity and expensive to use.

So this new hacked Energy Orb is great idea, and very similar in concept to the DIY Kyoto Wattson, an energy-monitoring device which we have covered before at Inhabitat. It doesn’t look like just anyone can create an Energy Orb just yet — as you’d need Martinez’s hacking skills and the streaming data from your utility company to be able to program it. We’re wondering, though, if it’s possible for the average Joe Ambient Orb owner to figure it out. If anyone wishes to create their own Energy Orb, and knows how to do it, please, drop us a line! Some of us here have our own Ambient Orbs and want to turn them Energy Orbs ASAP.

Interestingly enough, Ambient Devices, the company behind the orb, has a similar product that does just what Martinez’s hack did, known as the EnergyJoule. Look for a bit more info on it here at Inhabitat in the near future.

+ The Ambient Orb + Clive Thompson: Desktop Orb Could Reform Energy Hogs

+ DIY Kyoto Wattson + EnergyJoule

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18 Comments

  1. Inhabitat » GIFT ... November 27, 2007 at 12:06 pm

    [...] DEVICES ENERGY ORB We wrote about the Energy Orb back when it was a hacker project, but now PG&E has supported the technology and released the [...]

  2. Motivation zum Energie ... November 22, 2007 at 9:40 am

    [...] auch anzeigen, wie sparsam (oder nicht) eine Familie mit Strom umgeht. Die Energie-Kristallkugel (Energy-Orb) wechselt die Farbe je nach Verbrauch. Der Wattson 01 zeigt auf der Oberseite an, wieviel Strom im [...]

  3. Home Energy Monitoring ... September 22, 2007 at 7:04 pm

    [...] Inhabitat: Ambient Orb Coverage [...]

  4. i-eclectica.org »... September 3, 2007 at 8:00 am

    [...] inhabitat for more information] —————- Now playing: Deerhoof – Look Away via [...]

  5. greatgreengadgets.com &... August 30, 2007 at 12:22 am

    [...] has a great article about a new way some people are monitoring their electric bill. A Southern California Power Station [...]

  6. B August 29, 2007 at 8:28 pm

    My initial enthusiasm for the Martinez Orb has faded over a few days’ reflection. I find it very hard to believe that any one thing could reduce the total energy consumption of the average household in such a dramatic fashion – nearly half! Yet this is what is being repeated (clipped and pasted) all over the web. Perhaps it is a slight misinterpretation? Maybe it brought about a 40% reduction in energy costs, not overall use? (Still a shocking stat.) Maybe, instead, it provoked a 40% drop in energy consumption during the peak hours only, reminding the Orb watchers to wait until later? (Still a good result, but hardly saving the world.)

    In short, I think I would need a much more detailed explanation of the results of this experiment before actually buying one when (not if) it is made available for purchase. The eco-sentient glowing circle, though undoubtedly cool, smacks of a kind of eco-elitism: a showy expensive gadget that promises more than it can deliver. I wonder how much power it uses?

  7. Ambient Orb power-usage... August 29, 2007 at 2:44 pm

    [...] [Via Inhabitat] [...]

  8. Girls Love Gadgets | Am... August 28, 2007 at 2:39 pm

    [...] [Via Inhabitat] [...]

  9. Technical world - All a... August 28, 2007 at 4:34 am

    [...] We’ve seen some interesting uses for Ambient Devices‘ various “thin data” products, but Mark Martinez, a Southern California Edison power station manager, has probably hit upon the most interesting application we’ve seen: by reprogramming the device to reflect energy usage and costs, customers in his 120-person test program managed to reduce their energy consumption by 40 percent. Martinez chalks the results up to the “sentinel effect,” saying that “”It’s nonintrusive. It has a relatively benign effect. But when you suddenly see your ball flashing red, you notice.” Ambient Devices actually sells a similar product called the EnergyJoule, and we’ve seen some other monitoring attempts before, but we think we like Martinez’s hack better — it brings a little mod flair to living green. Hopefully he’ll let us know how he did it soon. [Via Inhabitat] [...]

  10. Ambient Orb power-usage... August 28, 2007 at 1:25 am

    [...] [Via Inhabitat] [...]

  11. BlogNerds.com » B... August 28, 2007 at 12:55 am

    [...] We’ve seen some interesting uses for Ambient Devices‘ various “thin data” products, but Mark Martinez, a Southern California Edison power station manager, has probably hit upon the most interesting application we’ve seen: by reprogramming the device to reflect energy usage and costs, customers in his 120-person test program managed to reduce their energy consumption by 40%. Martinez chalks the results up to the “sentinel effect,” saying that “”It’s nonintrusive. It has a relatively benign effect. But when you suddenly see your ball flashing red, you notice.” Ambient Devices actually sells a similar product called the EnergyJoule, and we’ve seen some other monitoring attempts before, but we think we like Martinez’s hack better — it brings a little mod flair to living green. Hopefully he’ll let us know how he did it soon. [Via Inhabitat] [...]

  12. Planeta IPLegal »... August 28, 2007 at 12:17 am

    [...] [Via Inhabitat] [...]

  13. Ambient Orb power-usage... August 28, 2007 at 12:06 am

    [...] [Via Inhabitat] [...]

  14. Ambient Orb ability-usa... August 27, 2007 at 11:55 pm

    [...] [Via Inhabitat] [...]

  15. Inhabitat » ENERG... August 27, 2007 at 11:52 pm

    [...] How would you like to be paid to save some energy? That is the concept behind “demand-response” a process in which energy companies pay users to use less power. There are a number of companies that are able to manage this process, but only one of them does it with style, by using the Energy Joule, designed by Ambient Systems (we mentioned them earlier today as the makers of the Ambient Orb) [...]

  16. Warez Cat » Blog ... August 27, 2007 at 11:50 pm

    [...] [Via Inhabitat] [...]

  17. Ambient Orb power-usage... August 27, 2007 at 11:26 pm

    [...] [Via Inhabitat] [...]

  18. pahl samson August 27, 2007 at 5:21 pm

    the same company also makes an ambient joule that plugs into the wall, though not as simple and elegant it sure is also informative, i wish it was for people here in texas. its only in new yourk for now. see it here: http://www.ambientdevices.com/products/energyjoule.html

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