When you hear of the vision behind AMEE — The Avoiding Mass Extinction Engine — you’ll know that this project is both hugely ambitious and is serious about helping us all change the way we lead our everyday lives.
The vision? To aggregate all of the energy consumption data on earth.
It doesn’t stop there. Their intention is that by informing people of their power usage, they can modify their behaviour, thus reducing their energy usage.
This is not just hot air and dreams. AMEE have made a very strong start to this already and you may well have used the services without knowing.
When Google switched their home page black in order to focus the world’s attention to energy usage, it was AMEE that powered the calculations of your carbon footprint – and it still does.
Another high profile partner is DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), who are using AMEE for their “Act on CO2” calculator.
Gavin Starks, AMEE founder
We caught up with Gavin Starks, AMEE founder, just after his presentation at FOWA in London.
The discussion covers a wide variety of subjects, but centered on AMEE, energy usage monitoring and how the future might pan out.
What is AMEE?
Working with partners like Google and DEFRA, AMEE provide the results, it also stores away all of the underlying data, helping to build a global picture of power use.
Gavin was keen to underline that AMEE is only a backend service, or as he put it, a “neutral point of aggregation,” – they just manage the calculation and the data, leaving other organisations of design and create the front ends.
AMEE has, from the outset, been designed to ensure the privacy of people’s data. As Gavin pointed out, of the million plus energy profiles stores in AMEE, it’s only his and his team’s that they can identify.
Smart because, when you hear that the next generation smart meters will be able to tell which are the devices that are going on/off in your house, just by understanding the way that they draw power, you start to understand why you wouldn’t want this kind of info getting out.
It’s the kind of data that commercial organisations would love to know; which devices you’ve got in your home; through the regularity of their use, how likely it is until you need to buy a new one.
It’s easy to see why AMEE’s forward thinking was vital.
AMEE want to make the data accessible, but fully under the control of the individual whose data it is.
How AMEE came to be
At about 09:30 into the interview, we explore the background of how Gavin got into creating AMEE.
Four people, part time for three years. In the last few months, as they’ve hit the million profiles, Gavin has given up his full time job
There should be some interesting announcements about backing from VCs in the next few weeks.
Although aiming to do good, by the very nature of AMEE running as a service on the Internet, it must run on servers – these must use power themselves. A dilemma in itself which we explore at 11:54, which turns up the problem with the cloud computing at present – there isn’t a service which clearly shows how much resource is being used while it’s running.
AMEE would love to see a data centre with renewable energy supply using very low powered recycled servers. Gavin outlines what is available current at 13:18 minutes in.
Making new things takes energy – So don’t buy new
For a long time, we’ve been wondering how much energy is used in the creation of new products. Given the opportunity to ask this of someone who has his finger on this kind of thing, we get kicked off at 14:13, where among other things we learn that an amazing 50% of total CO2 output from a vehicle over its lifetime is created during its construction.
There’s some discussion at 19:02 into how you change a society where new is good.
How do you get involved with working with AMEE?
AMEE have an open door policy for developers of organisations that want to work with them. A broad scope, one that Gavin spells out, “we’re supportive of anyone in the world who want to work with us.”
If this sound like the sort of thing that you want to get involved with, pop yourself over to AMEE.cc.
It sounds dramatic, but if you’re interested in the future of the planet, you should have a listen to this …
Photo credit: Jeff Kubina