How to Monitor Your Home Utilities Usage Using Webcams and Google Android

How to Monitor Your Home Utilities Usage Using Webcams and Google Android

Range Govindan
Jun 8, 2009

It's always good to find new ways of saving money. One of the easiest ways is monitoring the amount of electricity that you use, plus the amount of water and gas. This lets you see how to curtail needless spending. We've featured a bunch of different devices that can help you with this, but there are currently none available that let you monitor the amount of water and gas that your home spends. Moto Labs have come up with an innovative, yet time consuming way of doing this.

Moto Labs had been tinkering with ways of using Google Android beyond mobile phone apps. They decided to try and leveraging the efficiency of having Android on a BeagleBoard, a low cost single-board computer produced by Texas Instruments, webcams, as well as piping a Flickr feed to a custom Google Gadget, letting you track the ups and downs of your power. If that doesn't mean that much to you, let us say that basically, Moto Labs are using a simple computer that uses Google Android to track your home energy usage. The only thing that we don't understand is that why wasn't one of those digital meters used instead of having webcams pointed directly at the power meters. The explanation is that the goal of this setup was to keep the costs really low. A few webcams are cheaper than that kind of power meter.

The other reason is that this doesn't only work for electricity, it also works for water and gas. This means that it's really useful because we can't think of a solution that does all of those for low-cost. The setup is as follows. Wireless webcams take pictures of your utility meters. A BeagleBoard running Android as well as the home energy monitor custom apps push the pictures onto a Flickr photo set. The app prompts you to transcribe numbers into the Flickr image tag. Once these are saved, the custom Google Gadget will chart meter activity on your Google home page.

You can find out more by downloading the step-by-step guide available in handy PDF format. The only trouble that we see is that you have to manually enter the numbers on your meters. None of the apps can read this alone, so this makes it a bit of a hassle. Nevertheless, there will be other hacks that will be made in order to remedy this situation. Once that problem is resolved, and we think that after reading some of the comments, it might have already been resolved, this could work really well. [Moto Labs via DVice]

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