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Profiling Microsoft Hohm

Posted in New Technologies by Manas Ganguly on April 6, 2010

The U.S. domestic consumer energy use has emerged as a new battleground between Google and Microsoft with implications for data collection practices and potentials, as well as open data initiatives. Here’s profiling the Microsoft Hohm.

Hohm is Microsoft’s home energy monitoring software available in beta since July 2009. Consumers complete an individual energy profile online and agree to let Microsoft access their current and historical data from participating utility providers. Via the information that consumers supply and these utility-provided datafeeds, Microsoft acquires detailed data about on-site usage of heat, cooling, lighting, appliances, water heaters — even electric cars. Microsoft has now sealed partnerships with Energy, Sacramento Municipal Utility District, Seattle City Light, and Puget Sound Energy on this initiative.

The proposed consumer value is that Microsoft will monitor consumer energy use to provide dashboard-like reports analyzing household consumption and energy use and make recommendations for system or practice modifications that will result in lower energy use and cost savings.

In the back end, Hohm Beta uses the highly complex Department of Energy (DOE) 2 Building model, the de facto standard for building energy efficiency professionals. Hohm uses analytics licensed from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories, where some of the best researchers in the world innovate on energy efficiency. Using these models and analytics, the system processes up to two hundred user input variables, along with historical hourly weather data, aggregated averages derived over decades, and individual historical usage and pricing information to ultimately model energy consumption for a home.

Though the results may not be accurate and may be way off, the Beta would help improving the application and building up a database of information so that the system can learn and become even more accurate. While individual user data will remain private, the system carefully derives averages from the user base to help increase the accuracy of the application. Such acase with a brand-leader like Microsoft to initiate data-gathering partnerships with all local utility companies performs a very interesting data aggregating function. Consider the analytical possibilities of having a centralized source for granular on-site energy consumption, with the potential to extend to global markets. There’s a lot of promise for value-added research but also a lot of potential to leverage this information in a highly competitive and lucrative global energy marketplace.

Microsoft Hohm SDK will be available to third parties this summer onwards with the first third party devices to hit the networks soon.Interestingly, Microsoft has also mentioned that it “might” even get into the game of energy hardware at some point. The end game is to feed back information and control to utilities to be able to load balance energy demand (charging up that fancy electric car of yours overnight instead of at 7pm, for instance), though that sort advance might be as much as a decade out.

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