Just last week, MNN technology blogger Karl Burkart dived deep into Google Earth 5.0. This latest and greatest version of the popular Google application boasts a truly remarkable feature: Virtual maps of the underwater world that allow users to act out Jacques Costeau fantasies without having to reach for a snorkel.

This week, we come up for air with a development from Google that’s sure to delight landlubbers weighted down by heavy carbon footprints and astronomical monthly energy bills. Software developers have created the prototype for Google PowerMeter, a free, web-based application that’ll let you track household energy consumption in real-time.

The program is still in development for consumer use, so the intricacies of how exactly it works have not yet been published. Hardware for the system is also needed, which is perhaps the biggest step in getting PowerMeter off the ground. Explains Google’s Kirsten Olsen Cahill in the New York Times:

“We can’t build this product all by ourselves. We depend on a whole ecosystem of utilities, device makers and policies that would allow consumers to have detailed access to their home energy use and make smarter energy decisions.”
The three key tenants of PowerMeter are "Analyze" (how do you use energy and what can you do to boost efficiency?), "Save" (reduce your carbon footprint and your energy bills), and finally, "Share" (how does your energy consumption compare with your friends and neighbors?). In terms of the last point, I’ll say it once and I’ll say it again: Perhaps the most effective way to get homeowners to mind household energy consumption is to encourage a little neighborly competition. Americans are a notoriously competitive bunch (really, who likes to lose?) and no one wants the distinction of living in the house with the largest carbon footprint and the wildest energy bills. Kudos to the intrepid Google geeks for upping the game…

Via [The NY Times]

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

The little search engine that could
Google announces the PowerMeter, a free and nifty energy-monitoring application accessible from your iGoogle homepage.