I've been so busy lately this blog has languished. But I just saw this cool thing on Treehugger that fits with my thoughts in a recent WorldChanging.com article I wrote about real-time monitoring of resource use. Check it out:
The All-Seeing Orb Says You Are Wasting Electricity
by Lloyd Alter, Toronto, 07.24.07
The Ambient Orb is, according to Clive Thompson of Wired, "a groovy little ball that changes colour in sync with incoming data- growing more purple, for example as your email box fills up or as the chance of rain increases." Ambient says that "the physical environment becomes an interface to digital information rendered as subtle changes in form, movement, sound, color or light."
Mark Martinez of Southern California Edison couldn't get people to conserve energy when power supplies were tight, no matter what he did, and then applied the power of the orb. Within weeks, Orb users reduced their peak period energy use by 40%. Martinez says "its nonintrusive. It has a relatively benign effect. But when you see your ball flashing red, you notice."
Thompson at Wired thinks that the killer app for the ambient idea is to tie more than electricity use into it but to have it monitor our entire carbon footprint, and broadcast it to the world, stick it on your facebook page, and trigger "what Ambient Devices CEO David Rose calls the sentinel effect: You'd work harder to conserve so you don't look like a jackass in front of your peers."
Imagine if everyone does it. Thompson continues:
The hope is that it could spawn a cascade of conservation. It's fun seeing your personal energy tab go down by kilowatts — but just imagine watching the world's usage plunge by terawatts or petawatts. It would be like a global Prius, with millions worldwide tweaking the Earth for maximum mileage. Now that's fun.
See ::Ambient Orb