Power saving traffic light

Written by: Tom Shelley | Published:

Andy Stanford-Clark, ‘master inventor’ at IBM Hursley, has come up with the idea of a traffic light colour-changing orb as a means of encouraging people to save power.

Inspiration for the scheme emerged from a project undertaken originally for Enron to monitor electricity consumption, in order to optimise tariffs. Electricity power data goes to an IBM Websphere Business Integration Message Broker that can send information to a data mining application and also to a Java ‘dashboard’ applet running in a Web browser on a PC, subscribing to the broker for live data.
As part of his investigations – and demonstrating how such information might be used – Stanford-Clark came up with a solution where power data drives a ‘Power Meter Orb’ that glows green when power consumption costs are between zero and 20p per hour, amber for 20p to 40p per hour, and red for 40p to 60p per hour.
Speaking about ‘pervasive messaging technologies’ to a Horizon seminar at Cambridge, he mentioned the orb as being particularly helpful in reducing electricity costs, as he could see at a glance what was happening. If it was seen to be glowing amber just as he was retiring for the night, he could immediately go round the house to see what had been left switched on. He has also instrumented up his water meter and car – and even his mousetraps, which notify his mobile phone and PC dashboard through the Message Broker when they have caught something and need to be reset.
While these applications may seem fairly trivial, the technology also forms the basis of a technology called Lama – Location Aware Messaging For All – originally conceived to help deaf people. This can track people and send them relevant text messages, on the basis of where they are and what is happening around them.

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