Making it easier to save energy

Jan 15, 2010

Fraunhofer scientists are developing programs that help show at a glance how much energy devices are consuming. At the GSMA Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the researchers will be showing how a cell phone can help save energy.

Each device is given a power plogg, which is a small adapter located between the power plug and the power outlet. It reports the at any given time to a PC via a . People can tell which device is guzzling the most by taking a look at the computer monitor. But the FIT experts have also provided a far more convenient way to access the information: "Using a as the display and control unit allows people to check the energy consumed by their devices or appliances," explains Dr. Markus Eisenhauer, who developed the system. "For example, it can be used to display the consumption by room, switch devices on and off, and dim lights." And there is another special attraction: The cell phone's camera can be used as a "magic lens". Point the camera at the device in question, and the power consumption at the moment is shown.

Everyone wants to save energy, but there are few individuals who can tell you exactly how much energy the devices in their homes consume. For example, which consumes more power - the dishwasher or the television? To answer such questions and to give consumers a sense of where the energy guzzlers hide, the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Information Technology FIT in Sankt Augustin, Germany has developed an application that demonstrates the of individual devices in the household. The basis for this is the "Hydra" middleware developed by the institute which is extended by an energy protocol. A middleware reduces the workload of programmers: in Hydra's case, by administering the communication between devices.

The technology behind this feature is complex: A server stores pictures of the individual devices, taken from a number of directions. When the function is activated, the cell phone sends the picture taken to the server, which then compares the picture with the ones in its database. As soon as it has recognized the device, it determines the power consumption at the time as reported by the associated power plogg, and sends this information back to the cell phone.

The result is a multitude of options that allow people to analyze the power consumption of their devices: The total energy consumed by a device is a calculation of its power and the respective time that it is in use. In addition to the power at any given time, it is also possible to examine a device's total consumption, for example, extrapolated across the average time in use during a year. This even makes it possible to detect energy guzzlers in the household that are not always turned on, such as the oven.

Various other scenarios can also be run through. Eisenhauer's colleague Marc Jentsch reports that "it is possible, for example, to try out the room lighting with energy-saving bulbs and compare this consumption with conventional light bulbs to see the impact on the electric bill." A display of the current energy consumption along with the energy and cost savings per year facilitates this comparison. Similarly, it is possible to compare the energy used to play DVDs on a PlayStation with that when a DVD player is used.

The system is already equipped for the future. The cost of electricity could soon depend on the time of day, and this system allows people to save money by waiting until the electricity is cheap and then using their cell phones to switch on the washing machine.

Explore further: Gesture-controlled, autonomous vehicles may be valuable helpers in logistics and trans-shipment centers

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Energy Saving Televisions Have Come a Long Way

Jan 21, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- With consumers being more cost sensitive, TV manufactures are coming out with innovative ways to cut power consumption on their television sets. Even when a television set is turned off, they ...

U.S. Data Centers Consume 45 Billion kWh Annually, Study

Feb 16, 2007

In a keynote address at the LinuxWorld OpenSolutions Summit in New York yesterday, Randy Allen, corporate vice president, Server and Workstation Division, AMD, revealed findings from a study that comprehensively ...

EPA promotes cell phone recycling

Jan 08, 2008

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has teamed up with cell phone makers, service providers, and retailers to promote cell phone recycling.

Recommended for you

For secure software: X-rays instead of passport control

Aug 21, 2014

Trust is good, control is better. This also applies to the security of computer programs. Instead of trusting "identification documents" in the form of certificates, JOANA, the new software analysis tool, examines the source ...

Razor-sharp TV pictures

Aug 21, 2014

The future of movie, sports and concert broadcasting lies in 4K definition, which will bring cinema quality TV viewing into people's homes. 4K Ultra HD has four times as many pixels as today's Full HD. And ...

Michigan team finds security flaws in traffic lights

Aug 21, 2014

What if attackers could manipulate traffic lights so that accidents would happen with mayhem as the result? That is a question many would rather put off for another day but authorities feeling responsible ...

User comments : 0