Engineering Innovation Podcast and Radio Series

Pinpoint Utility Meter

PostedSeptember 6, 2009

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Randy Atkins: The engineering breakthrough would allow just one easy-to-install sensor per utility. Simply plug into an outlet to monitor your house’s entire electric system.  The inventor, Shwetak Patel of the University of Washington, says everything that draws power – down to a lightbulb – has its own electrical signature.

Shwetak Patel: These patterns are unique enough to be able to pinpoint exactly what device it was.

Randy Atkins: Similarly, pressure fluctuations can monitor water.  Screw a sensor onto your outdoor spigot then...

Shwetak Patel: When you use your kitchen faucet or your dishwasher or your lavatory faucet, we know when that event happened and we know how much water was consumed by that particular activity.

Randy Atkins: Patel thinks the technology could help people reduce energy consumption by up to ten-percent.  With the National Academy of Engineering, Randy Atkins, 103-point-5 F-M and WTOP-dot-com.

Patel says the sensors should be available in about a year.



  • Patel featured in Technology Review
  • More details on how his device works