Rewired State Carbon and Energy Hack Weekend

Although I did not do any of the things I’d thought about recently, I joined up with James, Nigel and Derek and we did SocialMeter, something that I’ve blogged about before but had been a little ahead of it’s time. James proposed it for this weekend and we miraculously formed, in minutes, a highly effective team. Thanks guys for being a pleasure to work with.

The concept is simple. People talk a lot about carbon but don’t do much. It’s no longer a technology problem as there are plenty of data capture solutions out there, notably CurrentCost and Alertme as well as numerous hacks such as those from #homecamp people. The problem is getting around to doing something so this project addresses the issue of motivation by making monitoring a little more fun and thereby giving it greater impact. One solution is what we called SocialMeter.

It looks like this (check back later for better photos):

The solution consists of:

  • Acquiring energy data in real time from a group of friends
  • Translating this to carbon impact numbers (using AMEE)
  • Aggregating and ordering it
  • Presenting it in a compelling way on a a choice of convenient platforms including tablets, phones and conventional browsers

It opens up many social possibilities. My favourite if that the one with the best improvement gets free (low carbon?) beer :-)

By doing this is a modular way using public APIs this is an open-ended solution. What made it feasable was another open API from Pachube which is where meter (and many other kinds of) data is captured. There were enough feeds available there to create a compelling live demo. We also had a £100 tablet (programmed in Processing) and an iPad to demo.

In order to make this viable in practice we need to hook in a social graph to provide permission to view other people’s energy. The demo used twitter or facebook for this and that too is open-ended. Personally, I think I want a restricted social graph for something like this.

For technical reasons this was built on a LAN over the weekend. We have since taken this to another level by putting it in the cloud. An android version is also done (using Titanium so it also runs on iPhone – well, on the emulator).

Many thanks to the Guardian team and other sponsors for this opportunity to get together and do something useful.

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