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british-gas-app.jpgBritish Gas have begun trialing a new app service that will allow customers to remotely switch off appliances from a smartphone.

The service, designed to keep bills low by tighter control over appliances (as well as being an additional safety feature for those worried they may have left a cooker or boiler on whilst away) could be ready to be rolled out early in 2012.

A new Smart Meter, letting customers measure exactly how much energy they are consuming in real time, is also set to launch.

Jacqueline Epifanie, Head of British Gas Smart Homes, said: "We've all had that
sinking feeling when we think we've left the boiler on as we disappear on holiday. Our new
technology will mean people will be able to switch off their appliances when they are away
from home and thanks to new smart meters will also be able to control their energy use
when in the home as well."

According to British Gas's research, these tools cant come soon enough considering the penny-pinching times we live in. The average household wastes £150 a year by leaving a boiler on all year round, a loss of £1 billion nationally, with a further £740 million lost leaving tech gear on standby.

A further 30 million Brits suffer from "appliance anxiety"; a fear that they've left potentially dangerous items switched on and unattended before leaving the house.

Name: AlertMe Starter Kit

Type: Energy monitoring kit

Price: £49.99 direct from AlertMe

Image Gallery: Click here


In these penny-pinching times we need every bit of help we can get to keep our bills down. Is AlertMe the solution to keeping those electricity bills in check, or a needlessly expensive alternative to switching off the lights before heading on out for the day? Read on to find out.


The AlertMe Starter kit is made up of a battery-powered wireless transmitter that clips onto the cabling of your electricity meter and a receiver unit that's powered by the mains and is connected to your broadband router via an Ethernet cable. Despite being a self-installation kit, setting up was rather painless. Though hooking up to your electricity box may sound like a job for a trained electrician, in this case it merely means putting a clamp around the wiring in the box, though the transmitter itself is a bit on the chunky side meaning it may not fit snugly into every electricity box.

From there on in you head over to the AlertMe website and set up the receiver hub. After setting a few parameters, the configuration process syncs the transmitter and receiver together, which will then allow you to track your energy usage online. Again, step-by-step instructions make the process very simple, and before long you're viewing fairly detailed info on your electricity usage.

Once signed up for a subscription with AlertMe (£1.99 a month for 12 months), you can view your electricity usage online from the company website, or via a smartphone. The presentation of your electricity usage data is very colourful and friendly. A "power now" dial shows you the precise amount of energy that you're using at that moment in time, given in kW, with an update rate of around every ten seconds meaning you'll almost instantly see the effects of switching off a light or TV for instance. The software also gives an estimate of how much your monthly bill will amount to, how your usage compares to recent readings from the past few months, and how your usage compares on average to that of the rest of the country's. It'll even quite nicely compare your usage to travel/fuel needs; you may be told your usage for the week was enough to send a train to Shropshire, for instance.


Another nice feature is compatibility with Google's PowerMeter service. It syncs your AlertMe data with your Google account, allowing you to add a widget to your iGoogle dashboard. Google will then present you with daily usage rates, and email you once a week with how much electricity you've been using in a graph. It's a nice feature, but the AlertMe dashboard itself is so good that you'll unlikely need this feature very much.

Our testing with the AlertMe kit wasn't without its problems though. While initially our testing was sending back reasonably accurate electricity levels, we began to see sporadic spikes in our energy usage, with the AlertMe website alarmingly telling us that we were using enough electricity to send an aeroplane around the world several times. We were quickly set right by a replacement transmitter kit, but needless to say we were gobsmacked when the service initially suggested we should expect an electricity bill of several thousand pounds.

While not included in the AlertMe Starter kit, it's worth noting that you can buy a number of various add-ons for the pack to further give you on-the-go control over your energy usage. Smart Plugs let you remotely switch appliances off whilst out and about and cost £25, perfect if you've left the iron on, while a number of additional units will turn the AlertMe kit into a fully-functioning home security system too.



Despite the size of the chunky transmitter and odd reading issues we experienced, we were very impressed with AlertMe, at least in terms of presentation. The kit itself has an Apple-style look to it and wont be an eyesore by your router. It's a shame however that the receiver isn't Wi-Fi enabled,as it means yet another unsightly cable sitting around our broadband router. Also, for a piece a gadget that's designed to save you money, it doesn't come cheap. £49.99 is a reasonable price, but factor in that subscription charge and it'll be some time before you're seeing any real savings attributable to the AlertMe Start Kit.



nokia-logo.jpgNokia are looking to file a patent for a mechanism that would allow phone batteries to recharge themselves when out and about by collecting the kinetic energy generated by movement.

It'd work like this: the heavier components within a phone would be placed on a pair of symmetrical rails. As the phone moves in your pocket or hand, the components would slide up and down the rails, with piezoelectric crystals generating small electrical burst to be harvested by the battery.

Neat huh?

With portable gadgets becoming more central in our day-to-day lives, the fear of a depleting battery when away from a mains connection is an ever-more pertinent one. Well played Nokia then for making some interesting developments here.

Click here to read the details of the patent in full.

Via: Symbian Freak

Turbine City concept - Gallery

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It gets pretty windy in Norway apparently. Well, windy enough for On Office's idea for a city built within wind turbines not to sound completely ludicrous anyway.

The concept here is that with turbines growing in size to accommodate our considerable energy needs, then their interiors could likely accommodate us too. A home away from home perhaps for offshore workers, or those who just cant tread lightly enough with their carbon footprints.

Imagine living in a home that was constantly powering itself? Put a few Ferris-wheel like cars on the end of those blades and you've practically got a self-powered theme park too! Result!

For more info, check Design Boom's in depth architectural analysis of the project.

Click the image below to get the gallery started

CES 2010: Final Thoughts


las vegas sign.jpgThe Consumer Electronics show, the behemoth of tech, the Valhalla of gadgetry, has come and gone for yet another year. But this time, rather than arriving with a bang, it slinked into sight with something more like a whimper.

CES 2010 had really had the wind knocked out of it before it had even got into the ring this year. All eyes were already on Apple and their rumoured Tablet in the run up to the event, despite the fact that Apple are traditionally a no-show at CES, instead planning their own top-secret unveiling at the end of January. Likewise, Google delivered a sucker-punch in the shape of the Nexus One, their flagship handset revealed at their own event on the eve of CES 2010's opening.


To make matter's worse, Microsoft's opening keynote speech (delivered by walking personality drain Steve Ballmer) was pretty darn dull. First a power cut, then a load of waffle on the 2 month old Windows 7, Ballmer hardly seemed to be trying to keep our attention. Though the Christmas release date for Project Natal was welcome news, it revealed nothing new about the device, whilst the partnership with Hewlett Packard for the new Slate device seemed merely like a case of keeping-up with the Joneses. Or should that be the Jobs-es?

But the Las Vegas event wasn't without its highlights. Far from it in fact. Maybe it's the recession, or the generally pocket-pinching mood in the air these days, but for once the most sought after tech wasn't in the realms of dreamy aspiration, but was actually fairly affordable.

Take for instance the brand new 3D TVs on show, of which the Sony BRAVIA XBR-52HX900 (video above, courtesy of Ashley) was the pick of the litter. Finally shaping up to the standards set by its cinema siblings, company reps promised that the average 3D TV will cost little more than a top-end Full HD set. Skype and video calling in many TV sets too will help turn your living room into somewhere the Jetsons could only dream of.

E-readers are also looking to be both big and affordable in 2010. As a comic book fanatic I'd have liked to have seen more attempts at a colour screened e-reader (I'm not including the MSI offering, which is really just a dual-touch screened PC, super-cool as it is). Plastic Logic's Que Pro e-reader looked great though, with a massive, durable screen, and was far lighter than the hundreds of books you'd be able to store on the tabloid-sized device.

There were, of course, tablets aplenty. The dual-booting Viliv P3 may be an underdog in the category, but seemed way more exciting than Microsoft's offering. The offer of both Windows and Android on the same device showed a respect for user choice not often seen in the back-slapping world of consumer tech.

There was still time for fun too. The Parrot AR Drone Quadricopter was fun and fresh, combining real-world toys with augmented reality controls. A little less high-tech but full of retro-chic was the Lasonic i931 iPhone dock/ghetto blaster mash-up. Odd's on its at the top of Flava Flav's Christmas list. And there was still some time for the weird and the plain old dumb, too.

light touch.jpg

Though less prevalent than other years, there were some great examples of brand new tech on show that were genuinely exciting. A real head-turner and my favourite item of the show was the Light Blue Optic Light Touch. Using a pico projection engine and a touch sensitive sensor, it'll turn any flat surface into a touchscreen. It works ridiculously well despite still being in the development stages, and has almost unlimited potential.

Some detractors say that, recession or not, CES looks to be on its last legs. It's sad, but not unlikely, when you consider the audiences that companies like Apple and Google can command for just a single product launch. However, for emerging companies like Light Blue Optics CES is still vital to gain some exposure, not to mention the fact that such a prominent date in the calendar forces the tech giants to have made some significant, competitive advances in their gear, year-on-year.

So here's hoping the old dog's got a bit of life left in it yet. Hopefully next year will kick off the recessionary cobwebs and kick the show back into high-tech gear. It wouldn't take much to tempt us back to the City of Sin once more.

Click here for full CES 2010 pre-show, day one, day two and day three round-ups.

CES 2010: Day 1 Round-Up

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ces 2010 day one.jpgWith CES 2010 now well under way, it can be pretty tough keeping track of all the latest announcements. Here's Tech Digest's round-up of the of best Day 1 at CES 2010 so far, including all the news from the LG and Toshiba press conferences.

Toshiba Press Conference
Amazing new Cell Tvs promise to deliver real-time 2D to 3D conversion

Samsung ready N-range netbooks
Massive battery life makes this Samsung range stand out from the pack

LG Press Conference
3D tech is as big on LG's agenda as expected

Immerz KOR-FX acousto-haptic gear lets you "feel" your gaming experience
Slightly creepy, sort of cool new tech promises to fully immerse you in games and movies

Sony NW-A845 Walkman finally gets European release
Super-slim MP3 player hitting stores in February

Microsoft to unveil new HP built tablet?
Rumour has it Microsoft may be preparing to square up against the Apple iSlate

Brits get the Amazon Kindle DX from January 19th
Too little too late from Amazon?

PassivSystems heating control
Economise with this hot Brit-built energy management system

ZOMM Bluetooth leash for your mobile
Never lose your mobile again thanks to this Bluetooth alert system

New Android handset enters the smartphone fray

Parrot's AR Drone Quadricpoter
Augmented reality app controls this fun gadget copter

Iriver Story e-reader goes wireless and gets a proper launch
A long time coming, but finally the Story gets a happy ending

Six of this year's hottest products

Featuring such gadgetry delights as the Skiff e-reader

Why Apple is the real star of the show
Have Apple stolen the lime-light yet again, without even appearing in Vegas?

Will it be any good this year?
In a recessionary year, Ashley Norris gives his views on what to expect from this year's show.

Click here for more CES 2010 coverage from Tech Digest

Tech Digest at CES is sponsored by Best Buy. For more CES stories and
videos go here

To be fair, "waterless" is a slight exaggeration, but only slight because a company named Xeros has managed to develop a washing machine that uses just 10% of the water of a normal houselhold unit.

This utility room game-changer employs reusable nylon polymer beads to wash your undies. They clean the clothes faster, using 30% less energy and each cycle only requires a single drop of detergent too. What's more, expensive eco-enemy tumble dryers need less time because you're linen will be less wet too. Therefore saving a few inches more planet. Sounds pretty marvelous really.

The trick has been working out a way to get the beads from your togs at the end of the wash but, now that's sorted, Xeros reckon they'll have commerical units in hotels and other such large operations by the end of the year.

And if that hasn't got your juices flowing green, then check this - if these nylon polymer machines were as standard in the UK, it'd be the equivalent of taking 2 million cars of our roads. Where do I sign up?

(via Cambridge News)

radio_waves.gifWhat if you never had to plug any of your gadgets in to charge them ever again? No stray wires running around your walls, no need to remember to pack numerous chargers when going on holiday and of course there are the financial and ecological benefits as well.

Well, this could well become a possibility. Nokia has got their boffins in Cambridge working on a technique whereby a phone can remain in standby mode and effectively charge itself using just ambient radio waves.

I'm no scientist, but I've done the research and I understand it as thus:

Waves in the air, such as Wi-Fi, radio, television and so forth can be harnessed and converted into enough juice to power your gadgets.

The system needs a bit more developing though, currently the boffins are only able to gather between three to five milliwatts of power and they need this figure to be more like 50 milliwatts in order for it to work in practice.

If they do manage to master this system, the possibilities are pretty immense. On the flip side, how scary is it that, potentially, there is enough electricity floating about in the air to charge mobile phones? How our brains don't get frazzled remains a mystery to me.

(via NokNok)

anaconda.jpg Cheap, clean power for 50,000 UK homes could be just 5 years away as "anacondas" take to British shores.

A company, called Checkmate, is testing 200m long rubber devices which would be tethered to the sea bed and are designed to swim against the current to produce up to 1MW of power each. The waves cause a bulge to ripple down the length of the anacondas and power turbines at the tails.

Fifty-strong shoals of the tubes could sit together just below the surface and scare all sorts of children in the sea. Checkmate hopes the devices, as designed by Professor Rod Rainey, would be in commercial production by 2014.

telehouse-north.jpgTelehouse is a company based in London's Docklands that runs massive datacentres providing servers and other network gear to major companies.

It's building a new one - Telehouse West - that's costing $180 million, but the carbon footprint for such a facility is absolutely massive. Tonnes of heat is generated and the cooling systems involved have to work extremely hard. The company realized that the heat could be reappropriated for use in local homes.

As a result, the company's been able to generate up to nine megawatts of power for local homes - the equivalent of boiling 3,000 kettles continuously. It's the first major UK datacentre to implement such a strategy, and the first datacentre to gain planning permission in London since strict sustainability rules were introduced.

(via DataCentreKnowledge)

If you needed further evidence that the Soviets were more than a little barmy, then here it is. They built a nuclear reactor onto a truck. Thats it, up there. They were used in the more distant corners of the country, presumably because in the more distant corners, fewer people would be irradiated when they used the things.

After the Chernobyl accident, the use of these things was discontinued, but crikey. Imagine seeing one of those things rolling up the main road of your town, village or hamlet. I'd run for my sodding life, wouldn't you?

(via EnglishRussia)

iphone-battery.jpgI always run out of phone battery at the most inopportune moments. Like just as my mum calls me, so she then thinks I'm avoiding her calls, or just as a lost friend is trying to track me down on a busy street.

Well, I've had enough, goddamnit. From now on, I'm going to make sure that my battery's always in tip-top condition. Here's how I'm going to do it:

One: Switch off features you don't use
Seriously, how often do you use Bluetooth? Even if you use a headset on the go, you're probably sat at a computer for a good proportion of your day, when having Bluetooth on is a waste of time. If you just turn it on when you need it, you can save a massive whack of battery life.

While we're at it, there's also 3G (do you need your email checked every minute? even overnight?), GPS, Wi-Fi and screen brightness. Turning them all down or off when you're not using them could double your battery life in one fell swoop.

Two: Don't let it run out totally before recharging
With Ni-MH batteries, it's good to let them drain properly before charging them again, thanks to 'battery memory', but most cellphone batteries these days use Li-Ion batteries instead. These don't suffer from the same problem, and can in fact be damaged by letting them go flat.

For best results, charge your phone when it gets to about 30% remaining. Think of the extra capacity as backup. Then, when you're stuck in a situation where you can't charge easily, like a festival, you'll have maximum possible battery life.

Three: Don't carry it around in your pocket
Turns out that carrying your phone around in your pocket is actually pretty bad for battery life, because you've got hot legs. By you, I mean "humans", not specifically you, though your legs are rather hot. *cough*. Ahem.

Lifehacker suggests that it's much better to keep batteries as cool as possible - meaning in your bag or jacket, or even on a belt clip. If you want to go overboard, keep your phone in the fridge at night, or just, y'know, turn it off.

Four: Turn it off when there's no signal
While we're talking about turning the phone off, turn it off when you go on the tube or metro, or if you're going somewhere that you know has low signal issues. The lower the network availability, the harder the phone chip has to work to get a usable signal, so the more battery it uses.

For the same reason, if you know you have to call someone, do it somewhere with good signal, oh, and keep it short. No yapping about whether or not your friend saw Neighbors last night. Save that for the pub. It sounds harsh, but think of the hours of battery life you'll get in return.

Five: Cycle your spares, and don't store them with a full charge
Lastly, if you're serious about batteries then you'll almost certainly be carrying around a spare for emergencies. Don't just use one and keep the other as a spare, or when it comes time to plug in the spare, it'll be dead. Instead, rotate which battery you use every couple of months or so.

Don't keep the spare fully charged up. A full charge puts too much strain on the terminals, and can damage it if it's kept full for a long time. If you carry the spare around with you all the time, then keep it charged about 70-80%, but if not then keep it at 30% or so and in the fridge (not freezer). Then just charge it up when you think you'll need it - if you're going to a festival, for example.

So there you go. My tips for making your batteries able to make it through two months before needing a recharge. Have you got any tips, or things you've found useful in the quest for battery life? Share them in the comments.

solar-batteries.jpgThere's something so wonderfully simple about this concept that I wish it would work better than it does. Ni-MH batteries that have a flexible photovoltaic cell wrapped around them, so that they recharge by just being left on a windowsill.

Unfortunately, the solar cells currently only charge the battery with a tiny, weak trickle, but if they were built into a proper unit, combined with capacitors and the electronics to up the efficiency of the energy conversion, then they could do considerably better.

On a related note, how many devices do you have that still use traditional batteries? Very few, I'd wager - perhaps just a TV remote and a set of portable speakers. Everything's rechargable these days, and a jolly good thing too.

npower-peg-generator.jpgIt's a bit like a bicycle pump that makes electricity.

Or, if you've ever busted your hand and wrist using one, the nPower PEG is more like the battery-less torches that charge themselves up via kinetic energy - kinetic energy you provide by shaking the thing up and down, relying on a weight inside the unit to generate power through friction.

The PEG outputs enough electric juice to charge-up 90% of portable devices, including iPhones and most Nokias, although there's no battery in the PEG - so if your phone takes an hour to charge, you'll have to have the PEG jiggling about for an hour.

I can't possibly imagine any sort of activity that would involve jiggling about for an hour.

(Via CG)

Related posts: Alternate-universe generator | Shoe generators

nopopo-battery.jpgThe NoPoPo battery is a revolutionary new battery from a Japanese company called Aqua Power System which consists of magnesium and carbon, and can be recharged with a 'variety of fluids', including urine.

The batteries will also accept beer, apple juice, cola and saliva, via a pipette included in the pack. A typical AA battery carries 1700-3000 milliamp-hours of charge, whereas the NoPoPo - which stands for no pollution power- only holds 500 mAh, but when all you need to do to recharge it is squirt in some piss, you can't argue too much.

The NoPoPo batteries are available in Japan, and you might be able to get it from the States here for $15. If you're buying some, though, I demand you explain in the comments exactly why you need wee-powered batteries, you weirdo.

Himeyashop (via OhGizmo!)

Related posts: ISS astronauts indulging in urine-drinking party tonight | Wee Sports announced for pubs, bars and clubs

google-power-plant.jpgYesterday, the Sunday Times published an article saying that making two Google searches generates as much carbon dioxide as boiling a kettle - an act long associated with energy inefficiency. This outlandish claim comes from a Harvard University physicist working on the environmental impact of computing.

Far be it for me to try to debunk a Harvard physicist, but this is mostly rubbish. Google is a company that cares considerably more for the environment than many. Although it's true that datacentres are remarkably inefficient creations, and the IT industry has a carbon footprint like any other industry, Google pales into nothing when compared to cars, fossil fuel power stations and the aviation industry.

I suspect that the real reason for this jab at one of the world's biggest IT companies is simply a desire for more research funding, particularly since the article inexplicably ends with an utterly unrelated jab at celebrity Twitterers. Google's Senior VP of Operations, Urs Hölzle, clears things up on the Official Google Blog.

EDIT: Turns out that the physicist in question is denying ever having said anything about kettles. Secondly it turns out that he runs a company that sells carbon offsets, called CO2Stats. Would you like a little conflict of interest with your coffee, monsieur?

"Revealed: the environmental impact of Google searches" (via Techmeme)

Related posts: Plogg - energy monitoring bluetooth plugs for a greener home and grid | Google needs to take some tips from Gary

If ever there were a gadget operated by witchcraft it would be the Powermat. We heard about it a few weeks back but no matter how many times you say magnetic induction it just sounds too good to be true.

However, despite my initial concerns, it looks not only really good but really quite reasonably priced too. The only issue is having to buy a different case each time for all your smaller gadgets.

More CES 2009 coverage at the end of this click.

nokia-logo.jpgBetting that within a few years every appliance we own will be hooked up to the internet, Nokia has announced plans for something called Home Control Centre. It's basically software that will let you control everything in your home from your mobile device, from the heating to the toaster.

I know, we've all been there - gone out with some toast in the toaster, and forgotten that you actually wanted it on browning level three, rather than browning level five.

Energy & Efficiency, episode 10

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By simply making a few changes to how we live our daily lives, it's possible to save energy - and therefore also money and the world.

In a system I'm calling The Modern Energy Efficient Lifestyle (2.0) I shall outline two simple techniques designed to get mankind more in synch with the planet and therefore assure the survival of both man and environment. Here's how.

To summarise - go to bed at 4.30pm tonight so you don't have to sit around with the light on all evening. This advice will work best if you're unemployed or a student and don't have a girlfriend who wants to watch TV tonight.

Related posts: E&E8 | E&E9

Reach_Batteries.jpgIt is a bit of a shame and quite an embarrassment for mankind that batteries haven't come on in leaps or bounds since the 1970s, with modern Duracells only being marginally better than the Duracells used to power a Big-Trak for about 35 minutes on Christmas Day, 1981.

But that might possibly be about to change - thanks to a man called Prof. Cho Jae-phil who works at the Department of Applied Chemistry at Hanyang University, in South Korea...

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