The Open Source way to save Energy at Home

Thanks to Glyn Moody (who writes some great pieces on ‘open source, open genomics, open content’ – as he puts it) I came across this post in the Ecologist entitled Could open source technologies help us solve climate change? from earlier this year.

One of the more interesting suggestions for us remote workers is Home Camp, a home hacking, automation and green technology community.

I’m not a developer and don’t really do any hacking but the potential results of the project will be worth watching.

Stealing a chunk from the Ecologist article:

“Based in the UK, and enabled by technologies like the Arduino, an open source electronics prototyping platform, members of the Homecamp community take energy monitoring devices like Current Cost, and install them in their homes.

By connecting devices to internet and mobile technologies, Homecampers are able to demonstrate such innovations as lights that switch off when a room is empty, or publishing their energy consumption online so that houses can compete for the lowest usage.

Homecamp projects are completed in the spare time of technologists and software engineers, and are fuelled by the enthusiasm of pushing technical boundaries and demonstrating achievements to their peers. Without the open data protocols of the internet, and the adoption of them by companies like Current Cost (which was the first to enable the connection of an energy monitoring device to the internet), Homecamp would not have been possible.

James Governor is co-founder of Redmonk, a company described as ‘the first open source analyst company’, and the author of the Greenmonk blog. An enthusiastic supporter of Homecamp and related initiatives, he believes that the principle of ‘hacking’ is key to finding the right technical solutions to climate change:

‘We need to experiment, and share ideas, in order to develop grassroots approaches to reducing home energy consumption. Without open source there arguably would be no Homecamp.

‘It’s not just the source code that needs to be open, however: “open data” is just as important – sharing information leads to better outcomes, because we’re talking about social change. Hacking climate data, creating mashups (new ways of visualising information) will be key to personal energy footprint reduction.'”

Offline the community aspect has taken the form of a number of unconference events where developers meet up and code. “Think smart meters, monitoring and graphing energy usage“. The second event had an OpenSim event running alongside for virtual participation and to demo the RealWorld and VirtualWorld modelling and automation that the community has been doing.

The site also has a interesting blog with links to other related projects such as 21st Century Living Project, a collaboration between the Universities of Surrey and Plymouth, Homebase, the Eden Project and Acona, watching how 100 families can sort out their energy issues.