AlertMe network power-meter kit: Suitable for techies?

Our man plugs in and gives it a spin


Review Simply measuring and monitoring energy usage helps people conserve, and helps avoid unexpected high bills while 'leccy prices are rising as quickly as they are now. Consumption monitors save cash and the planet, which is why UK.gov is keen on getting smart meters in every home, although these are probably rather less polished than AlertMe's kit.

The AlertMe technology includes energy and security management, and is an integrated set of well-styled consumer electronics gizmos and webpages.

AlertMe can track energy use for the whole house online, and I can turn stuff on and off from my phone or laptop while I'm out to confuse would-be burglars.

I was sent for review an energy-monitoring set of:

  • "AlertMe Energy" (£49.99): the AlertMe Hub and Meter Clamp
  • "In-Home Display" (£29.99)
  • 1 x "SmartPlug" (£25.00)
  • A working subscription ("Annual Energy Subs" would be £19.90)

I've previously tested two other clip-on energy meters at home, the Efergy Elite 2.0 and Npower (GEO) Smartpower, neither of which had computer or Web connectivity, and AlertMe has pros and cons compared to them as you'd expect.

Doesn't work well with wind and solar

Firstly, the big caveat for my home. If you're a rare bird like me and have solar PV or wind or other microgeneration at home, then AlertMe may not be for you, because as a standard limitation of this type of "clip-on" meter (more below), AlertMe cannot tell whether you are importing from the grid as it expects, or exporting excess energy and burnishing your green halo: all flow looks like consumption to it. Thus most of the cleverer features such as predicting cost per day or month or year, or estimating carbon footprint, etc, are pole-axed by bogus numbers! AlertMe has plans to address this shortcoming for microgenerators, and I hope to review their new tech soon.

How it works

The AlertMe measures power consumption for the whole house by means of a clip-on "clamp" meter that goes round one of the fat supply wires in your meter cupboard; no electrician is needed to install it. (The clamp is connected to a battery-powered wireless transmitter.)

alert me clamp and transmitter

The clamp/transmitter doing mortal
battle in my meter cabinet

AlertMe like all such clamp meters measures current flow, and that allows it to estimate power consumption by, for example, assuming the standard mains voltage.

But as the (RMS) voltage can vary a bit by time of day, how close the house is to a substation, etc, etc, that can introduce noticeable error.

Also, almost anything other than a water heater or electric fire will not be quite a "resistive" load, and won't draw current in phase with the mains voltage, skewing the clamp-meter estimates quite a bit. And energy-efficient electronics can be especially-badly misjudged. For example, the ~5W that our washing machine uses while in delay mode shows up as AlertMe as 30W which might have dissuaded me from using that feature had I not already measured with a plug-in meter!

Lastly, small loads are harder to measure accurately, so again you might be misled about how worthwhile it is to turn some efficient gadgets off. The consumption shown has to be regarded as approximate.

The AlertMe Smart Plug comes to the rescue on these issues however as it can accurately measure consumption of the appliance plugged into it, and you can get a pretty graph/log of the results, and it doesn't suffer from most of the clip-on meter's problems.

power now appliances screen

"Appliances" screen for desk light usage measured by Smart Plug "P1". Shows current usage cost of ~0.1p per day with my 7W LED anglepoise!

(The Smart Plug lives up to its name, and even lets you turn the plugged-in appliance on and off remotely, from the web or by phone text message. I've done it from a beach in deepest Devon...)

alert me hub

The hub: tasteful shiny Desiato black plastic...

Data from the meter clamp and the Smart Plug and any other devices you have is relayed via the supplied hub (which plugs into your ADSL or cable router) and the internet to be stored on AlertMe's servers.

From there you can login to export it to CSV files, view it as pretty graphs, estimate your carbon footprint and expected electricity bills, and compare your green halo with that of your area and the rest of the country.

Next page: Annoyances

Other stories you might like

  • Moscow court fines Pinterest, Airbnb, Twitch, UPS for not storing data locally
    Data sovereignty is more important than Ukrainian sovereignty

    A Moscow court has fined Airbnb, Twitch, UPS, and Pinterest for not storing Russian user data locally, according to Russian regulator Roskomnadzor.

    The decision was handed down by the Tagansky District Court of Moscow after the four foreign companies allegedly did not provide documents confirming that the storage and processing of Russian personal data was conducted entirely in the country.

    Twitch, Pinterest and Airbnb were fined approximately $38,500 while UPS received a fine of roughly $19,200.

    Continue reading
  • Israel plans ‘Cyber-Dome’ to defeat digital attacks from Iran and others
    Already has 'Iron Dome' – does it need another hero?

    The new head of Israel's National Cyber Directorate (INCD) has announced the nation intends to build a "Cyber-Dome" – a national defense system to fend off digital attacks.

    Gaby Portnoy, director general of INCD, revealed plans for Cyber-Dome on Tuesday, delivering his first public speech since his appointment to the role in February. Portnoy is a 31-year veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces, which he exited as a brigadier general after also serving as head of operations for the Intelligence Corps, and leading visual intelligence team Unit 9900.

    "The Cyber-Dome will elevate national cyber security by implementing new mechanisms in the national cyber perimeter, reducing the harm from cyber attacks at scale," Portnoy told a conference in Tel Aviv. "The Cyber-Dome will also provide tools and services to elevate the protection of the national assets as a whole. The Dome is a new big data, AI, overall approach to proactive defense. It will synchronize nation-level real-time detection, analysis, and mitigation of threats."

    Continue reading
  • Intel to sell Massachusetts R&D site, once home to its only New England fab
    End of another era as former DEC facility faces demolition

    As Intel gets ready to build fabs in Arizona and Ohio, the x86 giant is planning to offload a 149-acre historic research and development site in Massachusetts that was once home to the company's only chip manufacturing plant in New England.

    An Intel spokesperson confirmed on Wednesday to The Register it plans to sell the property. The company expects to transfer the site to a new owner, a real-estate developer, next summer, whereupon it'll be torn down completely.

    The site is located at 75 Reed Rd in Hudson, Massachusetts, between Boston and Worcester. It has been home to more than 800 R&D employees, according to Intel. The spokesperson told us the US giant will move its Hudson employees to a facility it's leasing in Harvard, Massachusetts, about 13 miles away.

    Continue reading
  • Start using Modern Auth now for Exchange Online
    Before Microsoft shutters basic logins in a few months

    The US government is pushing federal agencies and private corporations to adopt the Modern Authentication method in Exchange Online before Microsoft starts shutting down Basic Authentication from the first day of October.

    In an advisory [PDF] this week, Uncle Sam's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) noted that while federal executive civilian branch (FCEB) agencies – which includes such organizations as the Federal Communications Commission, Federal Trade Commission, and such departments as Homeland Security, Justice, Treasury, and State – are required to make the change, all organizations should make the switch from Basic Authentication.

    "Federal agencies should determine their use of Basic Auth and migrate users and applications to Modern Auth," CISA wrote. "After completing the migration to Modern Auth, agencies should block Basic Auth."

    Continue reading
  • Arrogant, subtle, entitled: 'Toxic' open source GitHub discussions examined
    Developer interactions sometimes contain their own kind of poison

    Analysis Toxic discussions on open-source GitHub projects tend to involve entitlement, subtle insults, and arrogance, according to an academic study. That contrasts with the toxic behavior – typically bad language, hate speech, and harassment – found on other corners of the web.

    Whether that seems obvious or not, it's an interesting point to consider because, for one thing, it means technical and non-technical methods to detect and curb toxic behavior on one part of the internet may not therefore work well on GitHub, and if you're involved in communities on the code-hosting giant, you may find this research useful in combating trolls and unacceptable conduct.

    It may also mean systems intended to automatically detect and report toxicity in open-source projects, or at least ones on GitHub, may need to be developed specifically for that task due to their unique nature.

    Continue reading
  • Intel’s CEO shouldn’t be surprised America can’t get CHIPS Act together
    Silicon supremo warns he could prioritize expansion in Europe if Congress doesn’t approve subsidies

    Comment How serious is Intel about delaying the build-out of its planned $20 billion mega-fab site in Ohio?

    It turns out very serious, as Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger made clear on Tuesday, less than a week after his x86 giant delayed the groundbreaking ceremony for the Ohio site to show its displeasure over Congress' inability to pass $52 billion in subsidies to fund American semiconductor manufacturing.

    In comments at the Aspen Ideas Festival yesterday, Gelsinger warned Intel would prioritize building factories in Europe over the US if Congress fails to act on the long-stalled chip subsidies bill.

    Continue reading
  • 'Prolific' NetWalker extortionist pleads guilty to ransomware charges
    Canadian stole $21.5m from dozens of companies worldwide

    A former Canadian government employee has pleaded guilty in a US court to several charges related to his involvement with the NetWalker ransomware gang.

    On Tuesday, 34-year-old Sebastien Vachon-Desjardins admitted he conspired to commit computer and wire fraud, intentionally damaged a protected computer, and transmitted a demand in relation to damaging a protected computer. 

    He will also forfeit $21.5 million and 21 laptops, mobile phones, gaming consoles, and other devices, according to his plea agreement [PDF], which described Vachon-Desjardins as "one of the most prolific NetWalker Ransomware affiliates" responsible for extorting said millions of dollars from dozens of companies worldwide.

    Continue reading
  • City-killing asteroid won't hit Earth in 2052 after all
    ESA ruins our day with some bad news

    An asteroid predicted to hit Earth in 2052 has, for now, been removed from the European Space Agency's list of rocks to be worried about.

    Asteroid 2021 QM1 was described by ESA as "the riskiest asteroid known to humankind," at least among asteroids discovered in the past year. QM1 was spotted in August 2021 by Arizona-based Mount Lemmon observatory, and additional observations only made its path appear more threatening.

    "We could see its future paths around the Sun, and in 2052 it could come dangerously close to Earth. The more the asteroid was observed, the greater that risk became," said ESA Head of Planetary Defense Richard Moissl. 

    Continue reading
  • Why Wi-Fi 6 and 6E will connect factories of the future
    Tech body pushes reliability, cost savings of next-gen wireless comms for IIoT – not a typo

    Wi-Fi 6 and 6E are being promoted as technologies for enabling industrial automation and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) thanks to features that provide more reliable communications and reduced costs compared with wired network alternatives, at least according to the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA).

    The WBA’s Wi-Fi 6/6E for IIoT working group, led by Cisco, Deutsche Telekom, and Intel, has pulled together ideas on the future of networked devices in factories and written it all up in a “Wi-Fi 6/6E for Industrial IoT: Enabling Wi-Fi Determinism in an IoT World” manifesto.

    The detailed whitepaper makes the case that wireless communications has become the preferred way to network sensors as part of IIoT deployments because it's faster and cheaper than fiber or copper infrastructure. The alliance is a collection of technology companies and service providers that work together on developing standards, coming up with certifications and guidelines, advocating for stuff that they want, and so on.

    Continue reading
  • How can we make the VC world less pale and male, Congress wonders
    'Combating tech bro culture' on the agenda this week for US House committee

    A US congressional hearing on "combating tech bro culture" in the venture capital world is will take place this week, with some of the biggest names in startup funding under the spotlight.

    The House Financial Services Committee's Task Force on Financial Technology is scheduled to meet on Thursday. FSC majority staff said in a memo [PDF] the hearing will focus on how VCs have failed to invest in, say, fintech companies founded by women and people of color. 

    We're told Sallie Krawcheck, CEO and cofounder of Ellevest; Marceau Michel, founder of Black Founders Matter; Abbey Wemimo, cofounder and co-CEO of Esusu; and Maryam Haque, executive director of Venture Forward have at least been invited to speak at the meeting.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022