Monthly Archives: February 2009

WattzOn and more visioning

Late last week I stumbled across another related system called WattzOn. There’s an inspiring 30 video of a presentation by one of the founders, Saul Griffith, discussing the global warming problem and the WattzOn approach. The basic idea is similar to a web-based carbon footprint calculator, but the calculations are all done using power measured in watts, rather than kilograms of CO2. The motivation for using watts over kilograms of carbon is not fully explained, but it does allow for some interesting visualizations, such as the energy required to support your life is N 60 watt lightbulbs running 24×7. The data are input manually using a series of web forms, though vehicle milage data can be imported from Fuelly, and there are future plans to allow importing utility bill data. While WattzOn tracks some areas that many other calculators ignore (government, food, consumer purchases), it’s also less accurate in other ways, such as entering in air travel as number of short, medium, or long flights.

After going through the questionnaire, you get a breakdown that looks something like this:

Pie chart showing the breakdown of my life's power usage

Pie chart showing the breakdown of my life's power usage

WattzOn also provides something called the Embodied Energy Database (EED) which is a crowdsourced wiki where users can estimate the energy required to create, transport, and eventually dispose of a product. Users can add products from the EED to their profile to better track the power required by their purchases. WattzOn has an API, but currently the data is read-only.

Overall, WattzOn provides some interesting ideas. Working from climate change consequences to GHG emissions to user goals for power consumption is a compelling motivator. Using power rather than CO2 as the measure for comparison is a unique choice, but the benefits over using mass of carbon emitted is not fully justified (other than the founder runs a renewable energy company). There is no support for physical sensor data input, but site has only been launched for a few months so that might be coming in the future. The EED provides a way to account for the impact of the stuff that we buy, but I’m concerned that the crowdsourced data is unlikely to be very accurate. Overall, it seems as the assessment is intended to be a snapshot of the user’s consumption, rather than a continuous monitoring of the user’s power. While users can edit the data that they input to update their power value, like any manual data entry solution, it seems unlikely that users will do that with any frequency.

The rest of the week was spent working on the vision chapter of my proposal.

Planned items from last week:

  • Finish assessment of related work in vision chapter
    • done, though now I need to add WattzOn 🙂
  • Make list of secret sauce ideas, and how they fit into existing research
    • done
  • Start detailed scenario for vision document
    • not done, still just has the Kimo example from the grant proposal
  • Incorporate Yuka’s edits into literature review
    • not done, Yuka is still working on the edits

Other accomplishments this week:

  • Discovered WattzOn personal lifestyle power tracking

Hours worked: 25 (target: 30 hr)

Plans for coming week:

  • Work on detailed scenario for vision document
  • Incorporate Yuka’s edits into literature review

Pointers to work products:

Cool links:

Advertisements

Improved UHM online resource bookmarklet

A while back, I wrote a little bookmarklet to navigate the UH Manoa proxy system for accessing electronic resources (like the ACM Digital Library). Turns out, someone else made a bookmarklet that works better than mine. My version hardcoded the resources that it would support, but Jeff McNeil’s version works for any of the resources that UH supports. You can find his Manoa Researcher Toolkit here, and the Reload page through Proxy bookmarklet is what you are looking for.

Vision chapter

This week was mostly working on my vision document and finalizing my portfolio. Instead of creating a separate vision document, I created a new chapter for it in my proposal.

Planned items from last week:

  • Write outline of vision document
    • done, made into chapter of my proposal for now (chapter 3, page 45)
  • Make list of secret sauce ideas, and how they fit into existing research
    • partially done, added ideas from literature review to start with
  • Start detailed scenario for vision document
    • not done, starting with scenario from grant proposal
  • Finishing touches on research portfolio
    • done, will submit after final pass through literature review

Other accomplishments this week:

  • Discovered Google PowerMeter, which looks like a promising addition to PET
  • Started experimenting with revised UH thesis LaTeX style created by Mark Stillwell

Hours worked: 15 (target: 30 hr)

Plans for coming week:

  • Finish assessment of related work in vision chapter
  • Make list of secret sauce ideas, and how they fit into existing research
  • Start detailed scenario for vision document
  • Incorporate Yuka’s edits into literature review

Pointers to work products:

Cool links:

  • My peeps in LILT built this iPhone app: iGeoRSS. It lets you browse any geo-tagged RSS feed, and orders the items by their distance from you. It also allows users to comment on items from an RSS feed.

Lost week

I spent all my cycles on my ICS 621 assignment this week, leaving virtually no progress on my dissertation. Hopefully I’m back up to speed on algorithm analysis so the next two assignments won’t take as long.

Planned items from last week:

  • Write outline of vision document
    • not done
  • Make list of secret sauce ideas, and how they fit into existing research
    • not done
  • Start detailed scenario for vision document
    • not done
  • Finishing touches on research portfolio
    • not done
  • Grant meeting?
    • done
  • Submit research portfolio to faculty?
    • not done

Other accomplishments this week:

Hours worked: too low to report (target: 25 hr)

Plans for coming week:

  • Write outline of vision document
  • Make list of secret sauce ideas, and how they fit into existing research
  • Start detailed scenario for vision document
  • Finishing touches on research portfolio

Pointers to work products:

  • N/A

Cool links:

Research portfolio and green action lists

Now that (a snapshot of) my literature review is finished, I completed the last component of my research portfolio: the statement of purpose. There are a few things I need to tweak in the portfolio, but it should be ready to submit to the faculty in the near future. That’s one more thing I can check off my Ph.D. todo list.

When collecting screenshots for my literature review, I was struck again by the problems that face systems that use lists of green actions as their primary method of user interaction. So, I wrote up a discussion of the problems of green action lists, and how PET can improve on that type of system. Eventually it will be a part of the vision document, but for now it’s just an HTML draft.

Planned items from last week:

  • Review TED installation guide for feasibility
    • DONE, looks like it might be possible without an electrician, but definitely will require turning off power to the circuit breaker panel (which means interaction with building management)
  • Write personal statement for research portfolio
    • DONE, draft available here
  • Create alternate version of 09-05 that meets research portfolio requirements
    • DONE, available here
  • Write up problems with systems that use green action lists
    • DONE
  • Start vision document for proposal
    • Not done, though green action list writeup has some kernels for it

Other accomplishments this week:

  • Asked Henri whether single space is acceptable for lit review
    • Answer: nope, must be double space
  • Flattened tech report 09-05 to remove symlinks to proposal
  • Emailed Dave about the grant proposal, setting up meeting

Hours worked: 10 (target: 15 hr), working on ICS 621 assignment

Plans for coming week:

  • Write outline of vision document
  • Make list of secret sauce ideas, and how they fit into existing research
  • Start detailed scenario for vision document
  • Finishing touches on research portfolio
  • Grant meeting?
  • Submit research portfolio to faculty?

Pointers to work products:

  • All embedded above

Cool links: