Smart Grid Firm GridPoint Goes Postal

Smart grid firm GridPoint says it’s scored a deal to provide its energy management system to potentially 2,250 United States Postal Service locations in the U.S. USPS needs all the help it can get when it comes to reducing costs.

Toy Story 3 Introduces ‘Lots-o’-Huggin’ Bear’ With Viral Ad

Pixar’s (s DIS) Toy Story films have always managed to have grown-up appeal, thanks to playing on the feelings of nostalgia we all have for beloved-but-forgotten playthings. But for the upcoming third installment in the franchise, they’ve taken it one step further by introducing one of Toy Story 3‘s newest characters to the Internet with his very own commercial.

So perfectly reminiscent of a 1980s commercial you might find on an old tape that I almost suspect Pixar dubbed it onto VHS and back, Lots-o’-Huggin’ Bear is established as a cuddly toy perfect for any girl or boy. He doesn’t have the cane seen on his official Toy Story 3 poster or Ned Beatty’s drawling voice work. Also, something about the “real world” version is slightly off-scale from the animated character. But it’s still adorable. Read More about Toy Story 3 Introduces ‘Lots-o’-Huggin’ Bear’ With Viral Ad

10 Things Outta the Smart Grid World of DistribuTECH

Distributech, the once-sleepy power grid trade show, has been transformed into a high-profile smart grid showcase over the past couple of years — this year’s show in Tampa, Fla. is no exception. Here’s 10 things you should pay attention to coming outta Distributech this year.

Mozilla Labs’ Contacts: An Awesome Bar for People

Contacts makes your browser “aware” of contact lists and address books you’re using elsewhere on the web, but rather than simply providing a view of these aggregated contacts, the add-on integrates them into form elements, so that names and addresses are auto-completed as you type.

Count the Ways to Connect Consumers to the Smart Grid

Smart meters have been undergoing a bit of a consumer backlash lately — and that could open the door for alternative ways to bring energy data to homeowners. Certainly the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the federal entity setting smart grid standards, seems to want to look for ways outside the smart meter to bring consumers and the smart grid closer together.

NIST is launching a new blog to open an industry dialogue around the “customer interface to the Smart Grid.” According to an opening post by George Arnold, NIST’s national coordinator for smart grid interoperability, one major question is whether the smart meter should be the primary gateway for home energy data, or whether the smart grid industry should be looking at a separate energy gateway for some or all of the home energy data that’s out there. Arnold dubs this the “Energy Services Interface,” but doesn’t get into more detail — though he does note that he’s interested in learning of “alternative architectures involving real-time (or near-real-time) electricity usage and price data” that could fit the bill.
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Xcel’s SmartGridCity Can Thank Fiber For Ballooning Costs

Xcel Energy’s showcase smart grid project in Boulder, Colo. has cost a lot more than originally expected, and the Colorado Public Utility Commission is now asking the utility to prove why it needs its Colorado customers to foot part of the bill. The main culprit for the cost overruns? — fiber.

According to a Friday story in the Boulder Daily Camera newspaper, SmartGridCity — one of the most widely publicized experiments in bringing smart grid systems to an entire city, with a who’s who of industry partners including GridPoint, Accenture (s ACCN), Current Group, SmartSynch, Ventyx and OSISoft — has seen capital costs balloon from an initially projected $15.3 million to a new estimate of $42.1 million, and that doesn’t include operations and maintenance (the entire project is expected to cost in excess of $100 million).
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Turn Your MacBook TrackPad Into an Inking Machine With Inklet

I knew it was only a matter of time until some developer figured out a way to turn the big trackpad on the MacBooks into a little tablet. The folks at Ten One Design have stepped up to the plate with Inklet, a program that does quite a bit. Inklet accepts input from the fingertip, but adds even more functionality when used with the company’s Pogo Sketch ($14.95) stylus. The Pogo Sketch is designed to add stylus control over touchscreens, and that includes the MacBook trackpad.

While Inklet ($24.95) is designed to allow drawing into programs that accept such input, it also leverages the handwriting recognition built into OS X to convert handwritten input into text. The program has palm rejection to prevent inadvertent input when the palm is resting on the trackpad. To appreciate what Inklet can do, have a look at this video:

Now Available: GridPoint’s Home Energy Management Tool

Every smart grid company, IT firm and software startup seems to have the desire to build a home energy management tool these days. But one we’ve been waiting to see for awhile has just launched: Smart grid player GridPoint says that its home energy management tool, which partly uses software from the company Lixar it acquired back in June, is now available.

Consumers can only access the energy management software through their utility, and depending on the utility, it’ll most likely be offered for free. The tool enables consumers to monitor home energy consumption, sign up for utility energy efficiency programs, manage some smart devices remotely and receive tips about energy savings. That’s all pretty typical of other energy management tools (here’s a list of 10 companies offering tools). GridPoint counts utility customers Austin Energy, Duke Energy, Kansas City Power & Light, Sacramento Municipal Utility District and Xcel Energy.

While I’ve only seen this screen shot and haven’t tested out the service, I am eager to see how it compares to Microsoft’s Hohm, Google’s PowerMeter, Silver Spring’s Greenbox and eMeter’s home energy tool. Lixar got such fab reviews before GridPoint snapped it up, I’m interested to see if it still works so well (merging technology can sometimes be tricky). If anyone’s tried it out, leave your comments.