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Wade through the jargon with this comprehensive guide
If you don’t know much about how energy monitors work, it can seem like all the information is a whirlwind of buzzwords and acronyms. Fear not my friend, here is a compilation of the most commonly used terms and what they mean.
AES stands for Advanced Encryption Standard. Okay, I realize that when you spell it out like that, it seems that I’m calling it Advanced Encryption Standard Encryption. Deal with it.
AES is a widely accepted secure encryption standard. The higher the number of bits, the more secure the encryption so 256 bits is stronger than 128 bits. Encryption works by jumbling up the data and requiring a special key to un-jumble it. If someone were to try different combinations of characters one after the other, it would take far more computing power than is currently imaginable to attempt all possible combinations.
Alexa is the voice recognition technology behind Amazon’s smart speaker products like the echo dot. It allows you to use voice commands to play music, listen to a weather report or give information on how much power is being consumed.
Stands for Application Program Interface.If the API is publicly available that means that general users can write applications that interact with the device directly. This is not for the faint hearted but if you are willing to put in the effort, the power to be able to have such control of your device cannot be understated.
Also known as electricity box. It’s a box usually found on a wall in an out of the way location. It houses the main power switch for your house as well as individual breakers for each circuit. A circuit breaker is a device that automatically switches off the electricity when a fault is detected.
It’s not white, it’s not fluffy, and it’s not the consequence of condensed water vapor in the sky.
In the context of modern technology, ‘the cloud’ is some form of remote computer. Instead of storing the data on your computer at home, the data is sent to a remote server somewhere and is stored there. This means the data is safe from local events like computer crashes, natural disaster, theft, etc. The downside is that the data is inherently less secure. It also requires that you place a lot of trust in the company in question.
CSV Stands for Comma Separated Values. This is the most basic and widely recognized database format. It’s essentially a txt file where the values of each cell are separated with commas. It can be opened up using any of your favorite spreadsheet programs like Excel or Google Sheets.
Otherwise known as a ‘current transformer’.
Usually a clamp like devices that can attach to a power line in your breaker box. It measures the current running through your power lines by measuring the magnetic field produced by the electricity running through the wire.
Google’s brand of voice activated technology. It uses some pretty clever software to allow two way communication between the user and the device.
It can be found on various devices such as the Google Home smart speaker, android phones, tablets and even wearable technology
Google Home is Google’s smart speaker brand. It allows users to easily issue voice commands. The voice commands are sent to Google Assistant and allows the user to control a huge number of devices.
Sounds like ‘ift’ from ‘gift’, it stands for If This Then That.
A simple app that integrates with many smart products on the market. It allows events from one of your devices to trigger actions another device. The triggers can be anything from “it has started to rain” to “my power consumption has gone above 1 kW”. The triggered events could be things like “close my blinds” “make my lights turn red” or “send my phone an alert”.
IoT stands for Internet of Things.
Basically it refers to any device that is connected to the internet that isn’t your PC or laptop. This includes things like smart light bulbs, blinds, security cameras, baby monitors, fridges, motion sensors and, of course, energy meters.
Stringify is a similar product to IFTTT. It’s a bit more difficult to learn how to use but when you do, it actually turns out to be quite a bit more powerful. In the app, IFTTT is limited to one trigger and one action (more power is available through the web interface however). With Stringify, you very easily set up much more complicated scenarios.
You can have triggers that rely on multiple things being true (e.g. it’s forecast to rain and you’re at home and it’s before 9am). It can also trigger multiple things at once (e.g. send me a notification and make my Hue lights turn blue for a moment). The app makes it very easy to set up these mini programs (called ‘flows’).
This opens up a lot more opportunities for a truly customize-able and personal experience. The downside at the moment is that Stringify is a bit lesser known and doesn’t work with as wide a range of devices as IFTTT.
A smart speaker will be able to play your favorite music just like a regular speaker.
The ‘smart’ bit is that you can control it using only your voice. This frees your hands to do other things. So, for example, if you’re in a rush and want to know what the weather is going to be as your packing to leave, you could simply ask the speaker out loud, the way you would another person. Voice recognition technology will interpret your request and the speaker will generate a voice that reads out the weather for you.
Voice recognition technology used to be woefully inadequate. You’d have to repeat yourself five times, being sure to pronounce every word clearly before the system understood you correctly.
These days, advances in technology and with the assistance of machine learning technology, voice recognition is far more accurate. A recent Harvard study found that voice recognition is actually superior to manual typing.
We expected speech to be slightly faster than typing with an on screen keyboard but we were surprised to find that it was about three times faster
James Landay – Professor of computer science at Harvard
Standard wireless communication protocol. Most smart energy monitor use this method to access your internet connection and update your devices with energy consumption information.
Kevin is an avid home automation enthusiast. His day job is in the visual effects industry but he's passionate about bringing the technologies of the future into people's homes.