Smart Power Points in the Integrated Home

3 September 2008 at 10:56 | Posted in Green Initiatives, Innovations, Integrated Home, Power Management, Power Monitoring, Smart Power Switch | Leave a comment
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[Category: Innovations. If you are new to my blog please read the “About itimes3” page first]

This is another one in the “Integrated Home” series – so far there have been the posts on Smart Water Taps, Sinks and Showers and The Smart Pan in the Integrated Kitchen.

When I switch on a light at home, or I plug my laptop into the mains to recharge, there is no easy way to know how much power I am using. Sometime next month, when the power bill drops into my email inbox, I know what I spent in the past, but what if I want to know what I spend when I am in the process of spending it?

And apart from the expenditure side of things, it might also be good to know what electrical appliances in my home use more power than average, or keep using power when apparently switched off – we all want to “go green” these days and it is annoying that we do not have the option to see what we actually use on a day to day basis.

I know that it is possible to buy power meters that plug into a power outlet between the outlet and the appliance, but those are of limited use only, because they only tell the story of that particular power point.

What I would like to see is smart power points and power switches around the home. Every single power point or power switch has a small LCD display, indicating the basics and other useful information:

  • whether the power point is operating OK
  • The number or IP address of the power point (for indentification)
  • The power group in the home that the point belongs to
  • The percentage of safely available power that is being used in that power group (depending on how many amps can be drawn from that group)
  • The power drawn by that power switch or power point at that point in time
  • The cost of that power per minute, per hour and per 24 hours 

All power points and switches are linked into the central computer in the integrated home, which keeps track of the usage and cost of power used at each power point, and should enable detailed and deep analysis of the power usage in the home in different ways, so that a complete picture of power usage per power point is available at any time.

The power cost can be set at the central computer, or in countries where once can change its mains power provider at the flick of a switch (such as in parts of New Zealand), the computer should also link into the switch that controls the provider, and update power cost information from this switch.

If you like this idea and you work in a type of industry where this is relevant, I would be happy to discuss in more detail, answer questions or assist in other ways. For details and contact information please see the “About itimes3” page.

George Spark

Disclaimer: Any trademarks mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners.
All usage of this site is entirely at users risk.

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The Smart Pan in the Integrated Kitchen

22 August 2008 at 21:39 | Posted in Integrated Home, Integrated Kitchen, Inventions, Smart Kitchen, Smart Pan | Leave a comment
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[Category: Inventions. If you are new to my blog please read the “About itimes3” page first]

The other day I had to warm something to 60 degrees in a pan. Right. So how can I do that? I can try to find a thermometer (or buy a specific kitchen thermometer), and then hold it in the pan until the temperature reaches the required level.

But that’s a lot of work, bad for my eyes because I would have to squint at the thing to try and read the level of its thin line of mercury, and time consuming because I have to wait holding the thermometer until the required temperature has been reached.

So why can’t the pan tell me what I need to know? What I need to know depends on what I am preparing, but the required data would have to include some or most of the following:

  • the temperature of the contents, so I can reduce or switch off the heat when required;
  • the volume (how many litres) there is in the pan, so I don’t have to measure things in some awkward way;
  • the salinity of the contents (how much salt is in it), which will enable me to standardize the salinity of food I cook;
  • the acidity of the contents which can be important to achieve certain taste nuances;
  • the sugar content;
  • the fat content;
  • and a whole range of other measurements, depending on requirements and what can be measured reasonably easily and cost-effectively (functionality upgrades could take place by means of firmware updates during the lifetime of the pan).

An LCD display fitted on the side of the pan would tell the user the information required, and buttons would enable “flipping” between different screens. The pan should have the ability to be programmed to sound the alarm when a pre-set value is achieved or exceeded.

Ideally, the electricity required for the display and sensors to operate would be generated from the heat generated during cooking.

Taking this concept further, we come to the integrated kitchen.

In the integrated kitchen, all pans and most other kitchen items and appliances would have the built-in sensors to sense the values mentioned above, but they would wirelessly communicate this with a central computer, a terminal for which would be installed in the kitchen. Depending on their usage, items and appliances could sense other values as well (a bread maker machine would sense different values than a pan, and a fridge or a dishwasher would obviously also sense different things).

The kitchen would have a bar-code scanner (or later, an RFID scanner) and all products brought into the kitchen would be scanned, so the kitchen would at all times be aware of its inventory. Pans and appliances would sense (or be told via scanning) what items were used, and the kitchen would list items to be purchased (and possibly order the items online from the local supermarket once a week or so).

Further more, appliances, pans etc. would communicate with each other. For example, I could set a pan to heat up to 60 degrees and stay at 60 degrees for 30 minutes, and the pan would communicate with the stovetop to maintain the heat at the correct level.

Much more functionality could be added to the integrated kitchen, which in turn would obviously be part of the integrated home (which also would include the smart taps outlined in another blog post).

If you like this idea and you work in a type of industry where this is relevant, I would be happy to discuss in more detail, answer questions or assist in other ways. For details and contact information please see the “About itimes3” page.

George Spark

Disclaimer: Any trademarks mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners.
All usage of this site is entirely at users risk.

Smart Water Taps, Sinks and Showers

5 August 2008 at 21:30 | Posted in Green Initiatives, Integrated Home, Inventions, Smart Water Taps, Water Management | Leave a comment
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[Category: Inventions. If you are new to my blog please read the “About itimes3” page first]

The smartest water tap I ever came across was the one my dentist used 25 years ago, which had infrared to switch it on and off. I know of course that this type of tap is quite common in airports, fancy bars and nightclubs, etc. but the reason I mention my dentist is that it was 25 years ago, and since then nothing innovative has happened with water taps as far as I know (and that tap 25 years ago may not even have been new at the time).

Of course the look of taps has changed somewhat, following whatever trend it is that taps conform to, but that’s about it.

Now I happen to live in Sydney, and water in this part of the world is scarce, so usually there are water restrictions of some kind in place here. Many other cities don’t have those, but as global warming accelerates more cities will need to restrict water, at least that is the way it looks to me.

Yet if I want to have any information about my water usage, the only way I can get that information is “after the fact” – I can find out how much water I used last month or so. That never seemed very useful to me. However my tap is too dumb to tell me, let alone to let me change my water usage.

So that situation is urgently due for improvements. Other improvements that would be very useful is full temperature control of the water flow, water jet control (shaping) as well as outflow controls and programmability. In other words: a smart, integrated water management system.

The idea of going out to the store to buy “a tap”, “a showerhead” or “a sink” will hopefully be a thing of the past soon.

What we should be able to buy in the not too distant future are simply “elements of a smart, integrated water management system” for the home or business.

Here are some of the elements that would be part of this system:

  • Smart water taps and shower heads with integrated colour displays showing relevant computer data about: the water usage of that tap or shower head, including current litres per minute/hour; litres used by that tap or shower in last 24 hours/week/month or compared to similar periods;
    the current water temperature;
    the amount of hot vs cold water used (litres of each) or similar;
    the current jet settings (the shower head or tap should be changeable from strong jet to “rain drops” and other settings).
  • If a to be developed smart water filter were attached to that tap the display would also show the filter status and numbers of key contaminants found in the water as relayed electronically from the water filter. The water filter should have the capability to order a new one of itself when levels of contaminants indicate that the filter is due for replacement.
  • A smart sink or bathtub that would have temperature sensors and would automatically keep the water at a temperature the user sets, or increase/decrease temperature to a changed setting, by letting water out via an electronically operated outflow valve and adding hot water (however not too hot; the system would keep temperatures at all times comfortable).
  • A toilet bowl that would sense the required water flow as well as jet strenght and direction for the “business” inside of it and use this then confirm its cleanliness and report back to the central system.
  • A hook-up to washing machines, dishwashers, garden watering systems, swimming pools, etc. to integrate them into the system and ideally get full water usage and control information from them, as well as the ability to manipulate the water flows for these types of equipment too.
  • Electronic touch buttons to operate the temperature, select litres per hour, select jet shape/force, make other settings as required and view statistics and other data on the computer.
  • Various control options including infrared, voice control, gesture control and wireless remote.
  • Network components to wirelessly link every element of the system (taps, showers, wash basins, toilet bowls, etc.) so centralized data records and controls can be kept, and connection to the Internet for various purposes including water supplier billing and water savings bonuses etc.

Further enhancements could easily be conceived.

It is time that manufacturers of taps, sinks, showers and toilets step out of the 1970’s and develop the integrated water savings and control systems that we should already have had now in 2008. The technology has been available for years, it just takes a company with innovative management to develop the products and bring them to market.

A long time ago, when wireless remotes for TV’s had just hit the market, some people were wondering what the heck they should use them for – “Why should I use a remote if I can simply stand up and quickly change the channel or the volume? I’m not that lazy” is what some people said. These days, remotes are the norm and that question is no longer asked. It will be the same with smart water management systems once they go mainstream, which might be sooner rather than later…

If you like this idea and you work in a type of industry where this is relevant, I would be happy to discuss in more detail, answer questions or assist in other ways. For details and contact information please see the “About itimes3” page.

George Spark

Disclaimer: Any trademarks mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners.
All usage of this site is entirely at users risk.

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