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From a Boston College dorm, new thinking about how to encourage energy efficiency

Posted by Scott Kirsner  February 4, 2011 08:57 AM

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api.jpgThe clock on your wall lets you know whether you're running late for a meeting, and the thermostat tells you, roughly, what temperature it is. In the 21st century, why isn't there a prominent display in every home and office that clues you in to how much energy you're consuming?

That's the premise behind a new Boston College start-up, Applied Power Innovations, from entrepreneurs (and sophomores) CJ Reim, Rich Rines, and Kevin Driscoll.

Monitoring energy consumption is a busy space, but the trio believe that relying on a Web site or mobile app to present the data won't work. "That requires you to think or take the initiative," says Rines. "Our display is right in front of you all the time."

They've already got a prototype of what they call the Power Dashboard, consisting of two parts: a base unit that connects to an electrical line, and a display unit that can be mounted on a wall or placed on a desk. The base unit can communicate to the display over a range of about 100 feet. The display can present information like how much you're spending on electricity this month versus last month.

They say that clamping the base unit onto a home or apartment's power supply is about a 10-minute installation process, and they project they can sell a finished product for about $200.

Their first target customers will be universities. ("Universities are something we know best," quips Reim.) Many run energy conservation campaigns and contests, but it's hard to motivate students to get involved. But if each dorm room or floor had a display showing how much power they were using, and that data could be compared with others, Applied Power's founders think that the cost savings could surpass 20 or 30 percent.

Reim says that the company is talking to Boston College officials, and may have Applied Power's product in a few buildings on campus by next month — which happens to be "green month" at the school.

So far, they say, they've been building the company without outside funding.

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Innovation and technology news that matters, on a new website from the Boston Globe, featuring Scott Kirsner and other original reporting.

About Scott Kirsner

Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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