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A smart meter you can't ignore

Posting in Cities

Residents of Tidy Street in Brighton, England received smart meters and a brilliant display of their energy usage, right on the very street they live on.

Now here's a novel idea: to maximize energy efficiency, show your usage to your neighbors.

That's the approach in an experiment in Brighton, England, where residents of Tidy Street are recording their electricity consumption online, then displaying it in aggregate on the actual street they live on.

For the last month, residents have had the joy (or shame!) of seeing their daily average usage displayed out front, comparing the block to the average consumption of a Brighton household.

It's a neat trick: show the people how much electricity they're using, and watch them curtail usage on their own.

The display is hardly high-tech, too: in collaboration with a local graffiti artist, the infographic involves spraying chalk on the asphalt, and is temporary.

The whole project hinges on the use of smart meters by the participants, who can then track electricity consumption by specific devices in their home over time. The endeavor is part of CHANGE, a research collaboration between The Open University, Goldsmiths, Sussex University and Nottingham University.

It is pretty clear that the project is eye-catching and captivating far beyond the city limits of Brighton. The question: how do you keep residents' attention on energy consumption once the novelty wears off?

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Andrew Nusca

Editor Emeritus

Andrew Nusca is editor of SmartPlanet and an associate editor for ZDNet. Previously, he worked at Money, Men's Vogue and Popular Mechanics magazines. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and New York University. He is based in New York but resides in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure