Really Smart (and Social) Energy: GroundedPower’s System Pinpoints User Motivations to Lower Home Energy Consumption

These days, it seems there’s nothing that can’t be accomplished by the use of online social communities. Even lowering energy consumption.

That’s the approach taken by GroundedPower, a Gloucester, MA-based startup that produces a system that monitors consumers’ real-time energy consumption and spurs them with goal-setting and online community engagement to lower that consumption over time.

The company formed in mid 2008 from the union of a psychologist and educational software developer (CEO Paul Cole), a utility company veteran (president Carl Gustin), and a software engineer who previously helped found an online behavior change program to help smokers quit (VP of engineering Michael Bukhin).

Monitoring consumer energy usage for information purposes isn’t new. Existing smart grid technology includes intelligent monitoring systems that track the electricity coming from homes. But the point of GroundedPower’s Interactive Customer Engagement System (iCES) isn’t just to tell consumers where and how much energy they’re consuming, but to help them change their behavior in practical ways. The company uses the psychology background its founder Cole to incite consumers to lower energy consumption based on what really makes people tick

“It became clear that information by itself without helping people to think on what to do about it wasn’t going to help,” Cole says he, and the other founders, discovered when they initially started developing their product. “That brought us to an integrated system where there’s a self-audit capability and social feedback.”

iCES starts with a monitor on home energy meters, which sends information to a wireless gateway device in the home. The gateway then transmits that information (via Ethernet) to GroundedPower’s online dashboard, which users can access by logging onto the company’s Web portal. Once logged into the system, users can view their energy consumption, set goals, and create profiles to compare their households to others in the iCES user community.

“Our whole premise is that information alone will not create a persistent behavior change,” says David Rosi, the company’s senior VP of marketing, sales, and business development.

The energy monitoring system then allows users to set goals for their household energy consumption based on different sets of motivation, such as money, the environment, competition, learning, and encouragement. For those who recognize their main motivation as the dollar, their iCES interface reports their energy consumption and savings to them in terms of monetary value.

GroundedPower’s system also allows users to track their energy usage based on carbon output or kilowatt hours, to appeal to the environmentally minded. For the competitive types, users can … Next Page »

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