I’ve been thinking about how internet connected devices like the Pivot Power Genius (PPG) might find an every-day utility in the home. After two weeks of living with the PPG, I’ve found little utility for it other than parlor tricks and initial ‘oooooh’ factor. In Exhibit A below, I was able to remotely annoy my girlfriend by repeatedly turning the lamp in our living room on and off.
I think part of the trouble is this: the internet affords us the capability to universally access content, agnostic of our physical location. As long as our device has a connection to a router with a public IP address, it can do things; access content, post content, etc. This goes to say, what’s typically of value with the internet is virtual accessibility and public.
However, when it comes to the home environment, almost everything is designed to be within reach (dependent on location), visible, physically reconfigurable, and private. To me this highlights a mismatch in the affordances of the two environments: the home environment and the internet at large.
Because of this mismatch, I’ve struggled to find utility for the PPG. It largely serves as a remote control for the things in my apartment that are pretty easily accessible anyways – except for a couple of ceiling mounted light fixtures and the damned smoke detector but those run on hardwired or battery powered circuits.
This week, I’ve taken a different approach to using the PPG; as a tool to manage the electrical loads of my apartment. Here’s a list of all the things in my home that are persistently powered from 120v AC outlets: refrigerator, microwave, router, cable modem, (3) alarm clocks, mac pro tower and its display. Of these devices, persistent power is necessary in the fridge, the router and modem (otherwise I wouldn’t be able to use the PPG! ), and the alarm clocks (only because setting the time everyday would be supremely annoying).
So that leaves me three options, my microwave, which I assume has very low current draw while not in operation and the mac pro tower with its display, which may actually have some current draw throughout the day even though the hard drive is sleeping. Since I only have two outlets, I decided first to manage the mac pro tower and the display through the PPG.
So far this has been a pretty successful endeavor. The tower and display are mostly used for movies which I sometimes forget to turn it off when I go to bed at night or leave for school in the morning. Having the ability to remotely control AC power to either gives me the peace of mind that I’m conserving power … although I’d be curious to do a cost-benefit analysis of using the PPG to manage power versus not using it at all. It’s not entirely clear to me how much draw the PPG is using throughout the day, which may be difficult to analyze given the variable rates of power usage in my apartment. I’m also not sure how great of an idea it is to instantaneously cut power to the machine … but hey!
I feel like this utilization of the PPG makes much more sense in the context of the home as it balances the affordances of both the internet and of things. I will continue exploring other implementations of for internet controlled power management over the next week, but I think I’m going to have to get more creative!