Tweet-a-Watt Wins Greener Gadgets Design Competition


The team behind the the Tweet-a-Watt/Wattcher just won first prize at the Greener Gadgets design competition. The device is a hacked Kill A Watt that transmits power consumption using an XBee. After checking out DVICE’s preview of the competitors yesterday, we’re happy to see a prototype win instead of just a concept sketch.

28 thoughts on “Tweet-a-Watt Wins Greener Gadgets Design Competition

  1. wasn’t there a hackaday Twitter moratorium?

    so, yeah, neat gadget an all, but this just drives home the problem with many Twitter-enabled devices: what’s the point? i see a tweet and… do i run home and switch off the device? can i somehow get the device to use less power, remotely?

    yes, turning a Kill-A-Watt in to a wireless reporting device is very cool; focusing on the Twitter part is pointless and dumb. really the best part of this device is that it’s open source and will data log to your computer. it could potentially load up a Google spreadsheet to chart power consumption correlated to other events. the ballyhoo over Twitter is just fad hype and distracts from how to really use this device for responsible energy use.

  2. gang, don’t get caught up with the “twitter” part – we publish to google app engine, and anything else… the big idea is that devices will share their power usage in a very efficient way. the project is open source (hardware & software) – in the public domain and you’ll see dozens of companies using what we put together to make their devices “smart”.

    on a side note, we did want to call it twatter.

  3. the whole things seems pretty pointless. Unplug your items when you go to bed or leave the house, plug them back in when you get home.

    As for the fridge…killawatts really can’t help much.

    Essentially what this device does is creates more industrial waste. The device lets you know when you should get a new appliance thus creating more premature waste. Wait until the device fails then repair or replace.

    These types of device are neat only in their concept but as for application….I can’t really see the use or need for one commericially.

    KUDOUS, geniunely, to the creaters though, I will always appluad ingenuity.

  4. real time reporting for nearly anything (weight, finance, power usage, mpg, minutes used, etc) is extremely effective in changing behavior. fact is, just measuring something will improve it because its thought about on top of improvements from instant behavior-effect feedback.

    fact is, i dont want to go around unplugging all my stuff every 5 hours. but now i know whats -really- using a lot of power and can take steps to fix it. For Example, my laser printer takes 300W to warm up and print but the power save mode is very low power so now i just leave it on & make sure i do all my printing at once instead of sporadically during the day.

    do you know how positioning your fridge can affect power usage? Does it use less when away from the wall? Enough to make a difference? Well, guess what my experiment this weekend is :)

    check it out:

  5. So our solution to too many devices drawing power when they needn’t is to invent new, additional devices that report to other servers? I’m no eco-freak but even this trips my BS detector.
    Maybe, just maybe, the solution is to plug things into the outlet that the light switch controls?

  6. Kudos for putting out open source hardware! I’ve integrated this with my Linksys router by adding a relay to cut off power when the firewall detects any network traffic to twitter. The entire computing rack is plugged into the “kill-a-tweet” right now. It really works grea

  7. @andrew this isnt really new hardware. you can get a kill-a-watt at home depot. this is a DIY solution cobbled together because there is -nothing else on the market right now- that is designed for renters and gives graph data (in the US, at least).

    hopefully we will soon all have breaker panels that can give you both fuse protection -and- per-circuit data. and upload the data in a useful format to some website.

    but that doesnt exist yet. so i developed a design to do this now because i thought it would be interesting. the watt draw of the devices is about 10W total so all i have to do is reduce my usage by 10W to ‘get ahead’, and that isnt very hard.

    @kyoorius i love the anti-tweeter-kill-a-tweet…please post it up! :)

  8. I definitely consider the hacking of the Killawatt a nice piece of work. But I gotta agree with @1 that the whole twitter thing… bleh.

    Maybe I’m too old, but I just don’t “get” twitter. It’s like the ultimate talk-only medium. Or maybe what’s more disturbing is the people who actually *follow* twitter “conversations”.

    In 99.44% of the cases, I can’t see a case where this needs to broadcast *anything*. It needs a host that can log it to a database, and some data analysis software to do something with the data (which is where Google is going). My neighbors, relatives, and the people in Korea don’t need to see that my freezer is fast-cycling because the basement got hot. Only I care about that. And I don’t need to waste bandwidth sending twits with this data.

    To be sure, I’m bashing twitter, not the sweet mod of re-using a killawatt for better purposes.

    What I really want is whole house monitoring. Circuit Cellar had an article a few years back about putting current sensors on the output of each breaker in a box. That’s not for everyone, but I’ve got no qualms about digging around in a fuse box (done plenty of my own re-wiring).

    For me the issue is the data logging. Once I proved in my head that I could design a system that would log the sensors to a database, I kinda lost interest in finishing the project. That’s a problem I know have, and as a result, I’ve coined a term of my own for it. GUP (that’s in caps), or (g)reat (u)nfinished (p)roject.

    To qualify for a gup you have to buy components, start laying out a board, or at least do schematics for it, and then not finish it. I’ve got several dozen of these laying around…

  9. ladyada, so instead of actually trying to prevent unnecessary and absolutely wasteful power consumption, you would rather waste energy but pat yourself on you back because at least now you are keeping a log of how much you waste.

    And to top it all off you would like to have device that wastefully consumes energy to tell you how much energy you are wasting….How eco-friendly of you. What did your killawatt read for your iron before it was hot enough for you to sear your conscience as to you wasteful practices?

    I turn everything off when I am not home and when I go to bed. It just lazy to think “Oh its too hard to plug things and be eco friendly”

  10. Logging the whole house from the fusebox is really the way to go. In our apartment the hot water heater is by far the big power sink, and you would never be able to plug that into a kill-a-watt. All it takes is a hundred turns of wire wrapped around a TV flyback transformer core. One of these gets clipped on to each of the two power phases in the fusebox. You don’t really need to monitor each circuit separately, just graphing the data on the computer makes it obvious which component is the water, which is the refrigerator, how much is used even when you are sleeping, etc.

  11. Obviously my solution is pretty low tech and wouldn’t impress anyone on Hackaday, but much of the power in use by appliances is when they’re in standby mode.

    In my apartment, they were apparently too lazy to install lights in the ceilings in the bedrooms and living room, but that actually turned out to my benefit. The wall switches are wired to the sockets, so I plugged my television into the socket on the switch and when I leave the room I can flip it off and power down the TV, DVD player, DTV tuner, lights, etc.

    Then, I just plugged the lamp into an X10 and use my remote to turn the light on or off instead (which supports my laziness while watching movies better than getting up to flip off the light anyway).

  12. @john – you said “so instead of actually trying to prevent unnecessary and absolutely wasteful power consumption, you would rather waste energy but pat yourself on you back because at least now you are keeping a log of how much you waste.”

    since i co-developed the tweet-a-watt, i guess i’ll ask you a question back… so instead of actually trying to prevent unnecessary and absolutely wasteful power consumption, you would rather waste energy by posting comments on a web site, on a computer, over the net – all of which uses tons of energy?

    you also said “And to top it all off you would like to have device that wastefully consumes energy to tell you how much energy you are wasting….How eco-friendly of you” – do you know how much power it uses? do you know how we did it? it seems you do not. if we figure out just few small ways to simply cut back power because of this device we made it’s less power than the tweet-a-watt would take all year for the most part.

    and lastly “I turn everything off when I am not home and when I go to bed. It just lazy to think “Oh its too hard to plug things and be eco friendly””

    do you pull your fridge away from the wall? try other dryer settings? these are things we are measuring and will save lots of $$.

    maybe you’re fine with what you’re doing – but there’s no reason to poop on people’s projects who are sharing their work and trying to make things better.

  13. tweet-a-watt does what to make things better?

    Oh wait, it requires a person to keep the internet connection on all the time at home even when that person is not home…since tweet-a-watt requires twitter. That also mean you have to leave a computer on all day….so basically one has just negated the purpose of killawatt types things.

    Yes I will poop on something like a killawatt and tweetawatt, as the device itself is almost totally devoid of usefull application. Though the fridge measuring and moving the fridge from the wall is usefull…so there, at least one good thing about it.

    But otherwise its just a bunch of hype. Such hype is prone to people who think they are being “green”.

  14. I dunno pooping on the Killawatt itself. It’s a good way to determine what an appliance is using. DVD players, TV, stereos that have “fake off” switches can be pulling more than you realize. Or leaving your laptop plugged in, even if it’s shut down (topping off the battery periodically).

    In many people cases, that computer may be running anyway. I know mine is, but it’s also my web server, email handler, data logger, and a handful of other things.

    I’d be willing to bet you’d find more Linux boxes that are on 24/7 than Windows users, given the nature of what we do with them.

  15. @john – we never claimed to be “green” – suicide is really the only option there if you really want to be as green as possible, but that’s morbid.

    hit google and check out the hyped up VC funded “internet aware” power meter companies (including google!). what we did is show it’s possible to do this: cheap, smart, open source and use existing hardware. we also tried to make sure no one could patent this obvious idea – sharing power usage is happening and going to happen – we just did it this way first and for “free”.

    poop away, it’s good for fertilizer :)

  16. @john, well, it sounds like the only thing keeping you from being totally in love with this project is the computer. and you’re in luck cause today i finished turning my wifi router into an xbee gateway. the linux machine inside is doing all the datacollection, reporting and, YES! tweeting. its only 5W overall and doesn’t use any additional power to run the tweetawattcher script while its also routing these packets to you:

    and hey, if you turn off your wifi router at night, then at least you’re collecting power data during the day!

    ps. i did measure the power my soldering iron uses to sear my conscience aaaand it takes about 25Wh. ouch! better recycle some more soymilk boxes!

  17. pt…”we never claimed to be ‘green'”. Really? You are at the “Greener Gadgets”, so I guess that is just hype too.

    ladyada and pt…good for you both for having the know how to do such things. I really do applaud that.

    But as for the gadget itself, more hype than an American Idol judges comment.

  18. hey john, if you look at the entries in the competition ours was maybe a handful of functional projects – the ones that got the most attention outside of the actual judging and audience were 3d rendering and photoshop works.

    i like the direction of conferences like greener gadgets, it’s too bad you can’t post comments about all the wasteful things at CES and have the designers respond like we have. hype would assume that it doesn’t live up to its claims, but it did, it does and now we’ve released a computer-less version.

    you said “But as for the gadget itself, more hype than an American Idol judges comment.”

    we’ve never watched that tv show or own a tv – what does that mean, is it a snark or something?

  19. There Is a big blend of various “smart” technologies that is going on right now. Variety is a good thing. I think soon you will see a blend of a router/home automation system. It just makes sense. As one reader suggested, real-time feedback is essential in changing a behavior. As more devices reach the market that are able to interfece between each other and allow the user to have a more intelligent control over their energy. You will see ZigBee starting to come in routers. There are already ZigBee enabled wall sockets. As some one mentioned X10 (PLC) control is also a possibility.

    What irritates me is people that put down a device or a product. There are uses for them, or they wouldn’t be out. People are buying them so they obviously find them useful. Just because “YOU” don’t doesn’t mean that it doesn’t fit some one ease’s needs perfectly. I think this is a great project. Keep up the good work guys.


  20. Hey pt and ladayada, why are you feeding the trolls?

    Obviously john really has no clue as to what greener is. I seriously doubts he unplugs his TV and microwave every night before he goes to sleep. I mean who wants to reprogram that stupid blinking clock every freaking day?

    The Watcher is a good product, it deserved to win, kudos to you both.

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