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Toronto based e-Radio-Inc. and CBC Radio announced last week they have successfully tested a new technology which uses the FM airwaves to control household appliances at energy-saving times of the day.

The e-Radio technology works by embedding a computer chip inside an appliance turning it into a "smart appliance".

The value of a smart appliance is that it can be programmed to start on its own when electricity rates are at their lowest. For example, a homeowner could load his or her dishwasher, washing machine or clothes dryer at 6:00pm, which is peak demand time and walk away.

Later in the evening, when electricity rates are lower, a signal would be broadcast from an FM radio station, in this case the CBC, which alerts the appliances that it is now time to turn on.

CBC/Radio-Canada’s FM signals are ideal in Canada since they reach close to 99% of the Canadian population. The company's say the added information has no effect on the quality of the radio signal.

“This is an innovative way for CBC/Radio-Canada to maximize the use of its radio infrastructure for the benefit of both Canadian consumers and the environment, without affecting the quality our radio service,” said Michel Tremblay, Senior Vice-President, Corporate Strategy & Business Partnerships. “ We’re proud to help pioneer this new made-in-Canada innovation.”
 

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Would this create a large "instantaneous" draw of power when all these appliances receive the signal and possibly cause problems on the grid?
 

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Interesting. But both my dishwasher and washing machine have a timed start so this technology really wouldn't be useful to me.
 

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Would this create a large "instantaneous" draw of power when all these appliances receive the signal and possibly cause problems on the grid?
I guess if everyone in Canada had a smart appliance and used the functionality, then it could pose an issue. Practically speaking, we are a long way off from that. Appliances last a long time, so it will likely be 20 or 30, even 40 years before this would become an issue.
 

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They could stagger it. The last digit in the serial number indicates how long after the cheap rate time starts, to start the appliance.
 

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How is having your appliance turning on when electricity rates go down idiotic?

The whole idea of smart appliances is quite brilliant. Most other smart appliances have to be programmed with the TOU schedule which can change by season or in the extreme by day.

The notion of having an radio signal notify appliances that its off peak time rather than programming is ingenious. The use of CBC makes sense when you realize they reach most homes in Canada. If you actually took the time to read, you would realize that no one is "Giving up control of ones appliances to the CBC".

The CBC is simply the carrier signal.
 

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This strikes me as a stone age implementation of new technology. The fact that it depends on an FM signal, especially a Canadian specific one, raises a flag for me. How are we to know that the CBC or even FM will be around in 10 or 20 years? (We already know the FM band will change format to DAB soon.) The CBC could drop support for the feature with a simple, "Sorry, it's budget cutbacks." type of excuse. Implementing it for a small market such as Canada raises cost and long term viability issues. Never mind that I've seen several such FM/radio/TV based plans appear and disappear over the years.

The best way to implement this is probably with programming and/or wireless networking. A simple interface on the device to program the time and optimal TOD to operate is simple, inexpensive and straightforward. A wireless networking approach could also work with options set by PC software or in conjunction with smart meters and/or local utilities. If smart meters use a standard signal to adjust rates, smart appliances could also read those signals. If that is not possible, smart internet routers could relay utility data to smart appliances. Technical people could also use wireless networking and software to program their own options or transfer rate data from the local utility to the appliance. These options could be set by an installer or by store staff if the consumer does not want to do it personally.

The only thing that puzzles me is why stuff like this is taking so long. It's been almost 30 years since some students at BSD modified a vending machine to serve up Jolt using a LAN. What's the matter with all these big utilities and appliance makers with $billions in their R&D budgets. :confused:
 

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There are many different types of smart appliance implementations out there. Not sure why everyone is ragging on this.

I would think that Canadians would welcome the advent of smart appliances and the more competing methodologies the better since it should lead to some real innovation.
 

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A few years back I was designing smart products that were "aware" of each other around your home / office. The big project was a communicating thermostat like the Aprilaire 8800
RS485, ZigBee, X10 (awful stuff) even WiFi was a method to get info back & forth.
Radio is interesting but...
1. it's one way and unlikely to be personalized at least not for free
2. all those little few mA of power these devices will need for the receiver will add up to a lot of current when multiplied by millions
3. as another poster mentioned will they stagger power on?
4. a simple table of peak / off peak times stored in a microcontroller could get its time set via radio WWV signals which have been broadcasting worldwide for ages.

I do think smart appliances are the future, not sure this tech is it though but I'm curious enough to contact e-radio.
 

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This is useless because...
A) requires add on chips for "compatible" appliances. (not free)
B) if the demand for timers is there...the manufacturers will include it on their future machines and pocket the extra fees for the "convenience".
C) The same can be accomplished with a simple manual timer or a more complicated device that links the machines to the home network.

How about Bluetooth enabled washing machines and dishwashers :D?
 

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I don't know of any smart appliance that does not require and add-on microchip so I'm not sure why that is relevant.

Suggesting people could use manual timers for dishwashing and laundry is pretty ridiculous. Timers for appliances with high draws are expensive and who wants to manually change it every time electricity prices change.

Smart Appliances make so much more sense because they interact with the grid and don't require manual intervention. They would also be much cheaper than manual timers because in quantity, the cost of the chip would be very small.
 

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I read through e-radios site and I'm not sure what their business model is. Are they selling the chip, or selling the service or both? Is there a recurring fee system for the information? Can the info be personalized?
 

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from the site

The company operates wireless communications networks and designs and manufactures FM receiver modules that are integrated into a variety of smart grid devices. The company’s products are focused on residential and small commercial customer demand management programs using the global standard FM-RDS technology as the communications platform.
Personally, I think it makes more sense that a home owners smart meter informs the appliance that its peak time or low time etc but I like to see competing "visions"
 

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Upon cursory review, it appears that the different electrical utilities can set their own TOU periods.

For instance:
Where is the benefit for me if my local CBC (Toronto) broadcasts a start time of 9:00 PM, but my utility still bills on mid-peak rate ??? :confused:
 

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this is all about a proprietary method to accomplish something that can be already done. Most appliances already have digital displays of some kind...incorporating a timer into those displays is alot easier than paying someone for their proprietary ideas. IMHO.

You would still have to program the machine to be "ready" to go when the call comes.

Why not push a couple extra buttons to select the time of day it comes on?

Lets not forget how easy VCR's were to program and set the time..yet most kept blinking 12:00 for eternity....lol.

So in a way...i'm arguing against my own logic. lol
 

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2. all those little few mA of power these devices will need for the receiver will add up to a lot of current when multiplied by millions
Existing chips will be replaced or reprogrammed to add the extra logic. No extra power will be required.

C) The same can be accomplished with a simple manual timer or a more complicated device that links the machines to the home network.
Generally not a good idea for several reasons. It's tempting to put timers on things like fridges or freezers but internal lights won't work, you run the risk of losing appliance settings and could end up with food spoilage or, worse, food poisoning. It also won't work with appliances that must be started manually. I would also be wary of using cheap consumer grade timers since they can be unreliable or could fail with heavy loads.

OTOH, I expect that appliances with energy saving features will cost more. There will be engineering costs to pay for and appliances with ICs and electronic controls tend to cost more now. We have a dishwasher with a start delay feature. That is probably the simplest/easiest way to implement time shifting for energy use. Even this simple feature is not available on the cheaper models.
 

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We have a dishwasher with a start delay feature. That is probably the simplest/easiest way to implement time shifting for energy use.
But most folks will never figure it out. The reality is that any system has to be idiot proof.

Frankly I think the GE smart appliances that work off a signal from a smart meter is the best bet.
 

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But most folks will never figure it out.
Maybe so. By simple I meant simple to implement as well as simple to use. It has a button that you press once, twice or three times for a 2, 4, or 8 hour delay. It also has labeled lights to indicated the current setting. Looks straight forward to me but I overestimate some people's intelligence. ;)

Frankly I think the GE smart appliances that work off a signal from a smart meter is the best bet.
I like that idea. Now all we need are standards so that all appliances work with all smart meters. Do GE appliances work with all smart meters or just GE's meters?
 
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