Intel Showcases Reference Design for Home Energy Management

Intel on Thursday released a new reference design for a home energy-management device based on its Atom processor in an effort to establish itself in the emerging market for energy automation systems.

Intel presented a tablet-like prototype for the home energy control and management panel on Thursday at the West Coast Green conference in San Francisco.

The Intel Home Dashboard, a proof-of-concept device built to highlight the reference design's capabilities, allows users to compare their personal home energy usage to that of neighbors, and measure energy levels generated by solar panels attached to the home. It also features an automated "goodbye" function that switches the entire house to user-configured off mode when no one is home. This avoids so-called "vampire" energy consumption from devices in standby mode, while presetting thermostat levels. The reference design features energy management applications displayed on a touch-sensitive screen, Zigbee wireless and Wi-Fi connectivity, and a software stack for building additional third-party applications on top of the operating system.

The chipmaker ultimately would like appliance manufacturers and utilities to apply this architecture in a number of domestic technologies dedicated to managing energy.

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Devices based on this reference design could handle a number of domestic tasks from one place by displaying the percentage of energy which individual appliances consume. Users can then adhere to utilities' demand-response programs by reducing consumption when necessary and, in exchange for their participation, earn cheaper rates from utilities companies.

They can monitor electricity levels, integrate other devices and gather information from their networked appliances and smart thermometers with an application programming interface.

Smart meters and other energy management devices can also function as a home communication center with video message recording and transportation planning applications.

The overall concept of providing a hub for consumers to have control over the distribution of energy-based resources is gaining ground in the semiconductor industry. About 49 such companies, including Intel, co-signed a letter to President Obama in April, urging him to make energy consumption information available to every American.