May 2007
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ZigBee 'fridge magnet' monitors energy usage

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Nicolas Mokhoff EE Times (04/25/2007 12:03 PM EDT)

MANHASSET, NY Southern California Edison has demonstrated a high-tech, ZigBee-based card for monitoring energy usage.

The 4-millimeter-thick magnetic card, which could be affixed to an appliance such as a a refrigerator or washer, is part of a pilot wireless system designed to help the utility cut costs by eliminating the need to read meters manually. The program would also let the utility's customers monitor aggregate usage in their area and adjust their individual consumption accordingly to save energy.

Control Solutions, Inc The device was unveiled at GridWeek 2007 this week (April 23-26).

The prototype wireless device, the size of a business card, would inform individual homes and businesses of the cost of the electricity being delivered to them. Tiny lights in each battery-powered device would tell each home or business connected to the grid whether the aggregate electricity usage in their area was high, medium or low at any given time. Users could adjust their consumption accordingly during periods of high energy demand.

The device was designed by Talon Communications Inc. and delivered to Southern California Edison. If the device is approved by the California Public Utilities Commission, the utility could begin deploying it in 2008 with a new generation of electric meters connected wirelessly to information hubs. Such setups would eventually replace as many as 5 million mechanical meters over four years. Estimated cost of the project is $1.3 billion.

Talon's plastic card includes a postage-stamp-sized circuit board containing a microcomputer, radio transceiver and antenna. It runs for several years on the power of two coin batteries, each the size of a quarter.


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