I’m supervisor on a masters project, which is supported by the EU funded Access To Masters program. This is a great program, for students in the convergence area, which supports students in doing an MSc if they can find a company that’s also in the convergence area, and a project which is MSc suitable and also useful for the company. Mathew‘s project is with Openenergymonitor who are a tiny (~2 person) open source hardware/software company up north of Porthmadoc, and his project is to build an android app & some widgets that let people monitor their energy usage and generation.
We drove up to meet with the company today – as Mathew’s exams have finished, it’s time to get cracking. The company is based in rather a remote place… one of the measures of remoteness I have learned since moving to Wales is the “number of gates” measure; you have to go through 2 gates to get to these guys. Here’s a picture of Mathew opening the first one. It’s Wales so you can probably also spot some sheep in the background if you look carefully.
We got there, had a chat about what we wanted to get out of the project and I think it was really very positive – the technical side is tractable, so the real work is a lot to do with providing usable access to data and solutions. Usability is one of Mathew’s strengths so I have a good feeling about this project. They’ve got some really interesting pieces of kit coming out of their community, too – like systems which will turn on your water heater once the solar panels are generating, air temperature monitors, and so on. It’s a very open working environment in terms of open source hardware and software. This means that one of the things we had to get right early on (way back when we were setting up the ATM project) is questions of intellectual property. The university’s used to hanging on to IP, and selling it to companies, but the whole ethos of this project is that we build stuff to give away – having decent energy monitoring solutions make things better for everyone. We got everyone to agree and now we’re going ahead (or rather, Mathew’s going ahead with the nice guys at openenergymonitor, I’m just the supervisor!).
It’s cool to have tech companies who are doing really good work, in such an open and friendly way. Also it’s really not the silicon roundabout out there…
I got myself the components to build myself one of their systems; it’ll attach to our photovoltaics, and to our general consumption, so my house will work as a kind of test setup for Mathew’s project. The openenergymonitor kit is very much aimed at the enthusiast at the moment (I think I might need to do some soldering to get it together) but I’ll be reporting back on that as we go along. Here’s a photo of the not-yet-unwrapped energymonitor stuff – soon, it’ll be in the house and giving us nice graphs to show usage and generation and all that kind of stuff.