Adonis Diaries

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Find Out Which Appliance Is Sucking All Your Power

Sense’s $299 gadget identifies individual devices in the home and exactly how much electricity they are using.

By  David Talbot. July 13, 2016

Is your garage door opening right now? Is your washing machine running? A growing number of products attempt to give consumers data on the sources of their household energy use—crucial data for home efficiency efforts and utility peak-hour conservation programs.

But Sense, a startup in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is the first to offer a consumer product that reads incoming household power levels a million times per second—enough to tease out telltale clues to which specific appliances, even low-wattage ones, are operating in real time.

“It’s at the cutting edge of what I have seen people attempting in this area,” says Michael Baker, a vice president at SBW, an energy efficiency consultancy in Seattle.

The company says it can accurately disaggregate 80% of home energy use;

it can do things like detect a microwave oven through its very specific startup and operating power “signature,” or sense a washing machine thanks in part to subtly increasing demand on the motor as the drum fills with water.

As it identifies garage door openers, toasters, microwave ovens, washing machines, heaters, and refrigerators, it displays them on an app as a newsfeed and a series of labeled bubbles.

Instead of a newsfeed of what your friends have been up to, this device provides a newsfeed of what your electronics have been up to all day.

Sense’s $299 gadget is the first that can identify which individual devices in the home are using the most electricity.|By David Talbot

Sense—founded by speech-recognition veterans whose technology ended up in Samsung’s S-Voice and Apple’s Siri—consists of a box about the size of an eyeglasses case installed inside or next to an electrical service panel.

Two inductive current sensors sense current, and two cables power the box and sense voltage. The box does some onboard processing, and then uses Wi-Fi to send data to the cloud for further analysis and aggregation with data from other users to improve its accuracy.

While Sense’s initial business model is based on selling the hardware for $299, the long-term play is in the data: Sense will retain rights to the data and expects to eventually serve personalized recommendations.

It also hopes to sell anonymized data and insights to companies like utilities or insurance companies.

Green Mountain Power, an electric utility serving 260,000 customers in Vermont, is planning to pilot the technology in customer homes in the town of Panton. The goal: to get homeowners interested in monitoring home energy usage—the necessary first step toward getting them to do things like shut off equipment at critical peak times or better align their household usage with household solar power generation (another data point Sense can track).

The utility already has so-called “smart meters” that collect data at eight- to 12-second intervals and plot it for customers in an app, but “we found that data at this resolution isn’t all that interesting,” says Todd LaMothe, a software development manager at the utility.

“We were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the appliance disaggregation and data visualization in the Sense app. Your home is interacting with you—it’s telling you what it’s doing. That’s the next generation we are looking for.”  (Sense requires no smart meters or other advanced technology in the home, other than a Wi-Fi connection.)

A number of consumer systems for monitoring home energy exist—but are generally of low resolution and look only at entire-household energy use.

Navetas allows you to track electricity consumption in real time, analyze trends, and set goals, but does not disaggregate what is causing the load.

Bidgely services utilities that have installed smart meters. By sampling meter data every few seconds, it can spot trends or major anomalous events, like a big overnight load that suggests an appliance such as an electric oven was accidentally left on. Another startup,

Neurio, is developing a similar system but is only able to see high-wattage devices.

As more consumer appliances become Internet-controlled, Sense can govern interactions with them. “Intelligence in the home starts with good data about what is going on, so that’s our focus right now—developing that data,” says Sense CEO and cofounder Michael Phillips, who a decade ago cofounded Vlingo, a voice-recognition startup that developed speech recognition for mobile phones and virtual assistants.

“Until now nobody has been able to make this work, because the real world is more challenging than expected.”

It can take a month of “observing” the home before the technology will fully identify what’s doing what. I tested it at my house over the past week. So far it has detected my fridge, washing machine, and dryer. I was surprised to see a big spike in demand at certain times when my dishwasher was running. That’s how I learned that it takes 1,200 watts just to heat water within dishwashers. I also saw that my house never consumes less than 64 watts, due to “always on” things like routers.

I found myself switching things on and off to see what they consumed. I quickly realized that my decades-old attic fan—out of sight, out of mind—was consuming 500 watts. So I’m already planning to get rid of it and install a gable vent instead, and let convection do the same job.

What else can I be but myself? Business card read: “Adonis-Himself”

Almost every behavior and physical characteristics are unique to the individual.  If the person is alive, you don’t need a DNA test to identify the person: any record left by the individual such as voice, handwriting, fingers,…is good enough to discriminate him from the billion of other living people.

Individual personality signature such as “fist”, “giss”, finger prints, speech recognition…are unique and define us.

Names are just shortcuts, and yet every one of us think that it is the name that bestow dignity and personality…

During WWII, before mathematicians could manage to decry pt the coded messages of the enemies, the interceptors were able to identify the enemy operators and locate their whereabouts and their units…The British labelled this signature “fist” of the operator

In sport, the habit of physical movements are labelled “giss” of the athlete, such as thinking of using the wrist in tennis while the videos prove the usage of the shoulder joints…

What else can we do but navigate within our signature, our capabilities and limitation? What can we do but improve what can be altered, persistently hard-working on our self-improvement?

Jim Kouzes, prior President, CEO, and Chairman of the Tom Peters Company (1988 to 1999) recalled meeting Regis McKenna, first marketing consultant hired by Steve Jobs.

McKenna’s business card read, “Regis McKenna – Himself.” Jim said, “I want to be that.” Jim Kouzes decided to sing his own song.

Along with his inner search, life tipped in early 2000. Jim’s first wife died. “It was a time to ask what’s next.” The search for self-development started in 2000

Jim said, “When I was young, I wanted to change the world so I joined the Peace Corps. After two years, I realized it was too big a bite. I set out to change the country (USA). I joined the war on poverty. After a while, I realized that was too big a bite so I got into organizational development. But, that was too big, too. Eventually, I started working with leaders. Ultimately, I decided to just be me and work on myself.” 

Dan Rockwell laughed at Jim’s narrowing progression and said, “It seems like you’re changing the world, now.” and Jim to retort: “In the end we realized that leadership development is self-development.” 




March 2023

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