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Guest blog: How much energy are you using?

KyotoTV at No.1 Nottingham Science Park

KyotoTV at No.1 Nottingham Science Park

How much energy are you using, right now? Chances are, unless you’re at home, really keen and on a new ‘smart’ electricity tariff, you don’t know. It’s funny then that we’re urged to reduce our energy consumption and help save the planet yet, we have no point of reference. It’s like being told to slow down from 60mph to 30mph without a speedo. Energy is simply not visible enough in a society that increasingly demands for the scrutiny of its use.

So, how do you do it? How do you attempt to raise ‘energy awareness’ in buildings, engage people with information and influence their behaviour enough for them to make the ‘green choice’ (turn off that light, not fill the kettle with so much water) and help build a sustainable culture that adopts these behaviours permanently? Well, it’s not a walk in the park. At OuterArc we’ve been working on solutions that go some way to addressing these problems and we’ve certainly had to be creative about it, taking a few energy meters and producing a display like the one in the image above.

One of the ideas we’ve come up with is KyotoTV, a building energy dashboard/display, designed to be shown on a big screen in a company reception, school, university or any other public place. Typically a large building will only have one energy manager (if that!) that monitors energy using a system of meter readings and reports. With KyotoTV we wanted to bring energy to the masses and encourage a sense of shared responsibility.

With KyotoTV we wanted to increase awareness of energy by showing, in real-time, how much energy is being used (Electricity, gas etc) and how much is being produced (solar, wind turbines etc) in a style that would catch the eye of the passer by, the image above is a snapshot of the result. People are the key here. Without engagement all the technology and green initiatives thrown at sustainability problems will never be as successful as they could be.

Making things ‘real’ is important. The image above was taken on Tuesday and is from a live deployment (KyotoTV is all web based) at No.1 Nottingham Science Park, one of the most iconic buildings in the city. You can see the weather (symbol and background colour), the fact that electricity use is up (the building was shut for the bank holiday), the energy bar at the bottom of the screen shows relative electricity usage compared to what is ‘normal’ and everything updates when new information is available. This is one slide (of a sequence) that will shortly be on display at the No.1 building. We’re also working with local universities, schools and some other buildings, so KyotoTV could well be coming to a screen near you.

We’re not done yet either. Energy is just one aspect. We’re brimming with ideas on how to bring people and places together using the web and mobile platforms (iPhone, Android, iPad etc). These are truly exciting times to be a ‘creative’, weaving technology solutions into people’s everyday lives and making a difference in doing so. Stay tuned for more.

PS. If you’re interested in green things in Nottingham, you should check out the monthly free climate change events put on by Nottingham Science City and Blueprint, check out the next one (8th June) here. Video highlights of previous events are available on YouTube here.

Here’s more background about our second guest blogger, Aaron Cottrell.

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