Projects

Meta

July 2013 – A project by Philipp Schmitt, Xin Xu and me.
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Saving Energy is important. Be it for the purpose of saving money or protecting the environment. Still, the energy meter — the only indicator of energy consumption — carves out a miserable existence in the basements of our homes and is rarely read.
To be able to save energy you have to keep track of your consumption – daily, hourly or even every moment. Meta is a concept which aims to bring your energy usage closer to you. Meta is built upon data, but hides it from you to help you understand what’s important.

We got used to the luxury of always having energy. It is only noticed when it’s lacking. Our goal was to raise a consciousness we never gained or lost decades ago. But how can we keep track of something which is highly invisible.
There are several so called “smart” energy meters on the market which try to visualize energy usage. But nobody cares for Kilowatt hours, bar charts or another app which tells you that you live your live the wrong way.

META IS PRESENT
In order to be more conscious about your electricity usage, the topic has to present every day, not just once a year.
That’s why Meta is an interactive object instead of just another smartphone app begging for your attention. Its subtle ceramic body blends in seamlessly with your home. By tilting Meta informs you about your energy usage. Tilting slightly is low energy usage, almost losing balance is too much. Meta is not upright? Ok, the TV is still running.

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THE BIG PICTURE
Turning devices on and off is a thing of the moment. You forget about what you have done yesterday or even what you had for breakfast. A monthly report shows your past and predicts your future. How can you do better? The newsletter is your digital guru. Comes for free with every Meta – monthly or at your fingertips (by pushing Meta’s button).

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PROTOTYPING
We were cobbling the prototype together using an Arduino and lots of electronics. Manufacturing the ceramic body and electronics housing was quite an adventure. Here are some pictures from the process:

FINAL THOUGHTS
Meta is an experiment. Probably it’s not a proper solution to the problem at hand. A device that needs energy to help you save energy? That sounds paradox and in some way it is.
But, there are two ways to make people consume less: Either through consciousness or by taking more of their money. Since energy is relatively cheap and will be for quite a while, we have to raise consciousness about our lifestyle and what it means for the world.
Meta tries to achieve that. You can decide for yourself how you think of it. But at least we got you thinking about energy. That’s what we wanted.