Smappee, why we designed it the way it is?

Smappee finds your appliances;  how does it work?

Smappee will find your appliances automatically after a few days of learning.  But it does not provide you the name and the type of the appliance.  There are hundreds of thousands of different appliances and manufacturers.  We do not have this database with all the signatures of those appliances (fridges, TV sets, ..) in order to let Smappee label the appliance automatically.

However what Smappee can do, is detect the different appliances that you have in your home, as they all have a different way to use the electric current.

A fridge for instance, has an electric motor to drive the compressor.  When the motor starts, from a standstill position, it will drain more power (thus current) during a fraction of a second, until the cooling fluid is circulating.  So let’s assume that your fridge, when starting to cool, uses 45 Watts of Power.  After a typical period of 5, 10, .. minutes, your fridge will have reached the 4°C setpoint and the motor will stop cooling.  The total power measured in your home ( being the total of all your appliances at that specific point in time), will then suddenly be reduced as your fridge just stopped cooling.  You would expect a reduction of 45 W (same as the initial power when starting), but in practice you will notice a reduction of a lower power, e.g. 40 W (as once the motor is running, it drains less power).  Smappee will match those power changes with statistical methods (eg. I see a +45W, then a -40W, again +45W then a -40W, etc.)  Of course it is more difficult than this, as ten’s of other equipments turn on and off in the meantime.  Or certain device of eg. 2000 W vary easily with 40W when draining their power.  So the difficulty is to match the power changes to the right appliance.  Many other difficulties include things like dimmers ( power goes from eg. 10W to 250W for the dimmed light), LED TV’s (depending on the movie you watch, power of the LED varies a lot!), ..


Still we have reached good performance and can detect and categorise “Loads” or “Appliances” that turn on and off.

I like to compare Smappee with Shazam, the App you would use to recognise a song you hear.  We all accept that in case their would be a lot of background noise or another audio source like speaking people or the radio, that the App would tell us, it did not recognise the melody.  Well in the case of Smappee, we constantly have background noise (chargers, standby consumption of devices, pumps, light, etc.) and multiple appliances being used simultaneously, i.e.  “singing their electric melody” all at the same time in the same “pub”. So when the “Bariton” sings (your dry washer of 3500W, ..),  it becomes hard to hear that little voice of your LED light (10W).

In other words, Smappee will listen to all the singing electric devices in your home (by measuring the the total power your home drains, thousands of times per second).  And it will recognise the different “melodies” (appliances), label them “Find me 1” (first appliance or “melody” found), “Find me 2”, etc.

The different melodies or appliances will be shown to the user once Smappee has heard them a number of times, so that it knows, it is not just random noise or a combination of other melodies.  This takes times, read a few “On and Off” events need to be heard or measured reliably before being presented to the user as “Smappee found a new Appliance:  Find me 12!”

As Smappee does not have that “big database” of all types of appliances and their “power usage footprint”, it is not possible to label the appliance it found.  Smappee will thus provide you a list of found “Find me XX” appliances, that you should label, i.e. find out what it is.

Finding the appliance “Find me 12” is an interesting excercise,  at least if you really want to understand your home’s energy footprint, or understand how much power and energy the fridge or the microwave will drain.  Actually it’s also fun to do, just like an energy management game.

How well does it work?

I hope you will understand how difficult it will be for Smappee to identify the different appliances in your home, and that sometimes, when multiple appliances turn on or off at the same time, it could miss that event of: “Fridge turned On”.

The first thousands of Smappee devices installed in the field provided us so much useful feedback, that we were able to fine tune and really enhance that complex quest for appliances.

In my house, Smappee found over 70 appliances, I labeled them almost all and most of them are really detected for 99%.  I can verify the number of Nespresso’s we have consumed and I am ready to bet that Smappee’s count of “Nespresso ON/OFFs this last month” will perfectly match the number of Nespresso capsules I consumed.IMG_0002

The same for my “Garage door Open/Close” , the Light’s in the Garage,  the Spotlight in the garden, etc.

Energy consumption of these appliances?

As Smappee detects the Power (at ON and OFF event) and also registers the ON and OFF timestamps, it can accumulate the ON time (hours) and thus with the Power in Watts provide the Watt x hours consumed per Appliance.  Energy is measured in Wh or kWh (kilo Watt hours).

The DNA of a appliance

In order to provide more information on an Appliance, whether you have found it or not, the DNA will show you averaged data on how you use that specific appliance.  The DNA shows the number of times the Appliances turned ON and OFF, how long the appliance was ON in seconds (averaged over all accumulated ON-OFF cycles measured ever), the average Power (an average of the ON and OFF) used by that appliance in W, the total energy consumed per day in Wh and the associated cost ( Wh x cost per kWh).  You can edit your cost per kWh to match your energy supplier’s bill.

The list of key parameters ( Power, Consumptions, ..) is also provide on a per Week, per Month and per Year basis.  The per Year basis will be an extrapolation based on the “so far available data as collected by Smappee”.  If Smappee is in use for 5 weeks, it will use the “5 weeks” usage to estimate your annual consumption.

In order to further help the user to identify the appliance or understand when that appliance is in use, the DNA wheel shows you when that appliance is used, most of the time.  The darker the green segment, the more On and Off events have been found at that timestamp. A white segment indicates that the appliances has not been in use at that timestamp.

 The “Per Day” tab shows the wheel of the 24 hours usage (averaged over the last x days); the “Per Week” tab shows the usage for each day of the week.  The “Month” tab shows the sliding window of the last 31 days and the “Year” tab indicates the monthly usage allowing to identify seasonality ( appliance uses energy in winter month, but not in summer, etc.)


I make 4 Expresso’s per day.  The Expresso machine uses 1.140 W and requires 36 seconds to make this expresso.  It runs 2 minutes 30 seconds per day and consumes 48 Wh per day, cost at 0,25 EUR per kWh is 0,01 EUR.  Looking at the outer circle on the DNA, I make coffee’s in the morning around 7h30 (darker segment there) and around 13h after lunch.  I also make coffee’s in the morning and afternoon (correct, I work home) but never at night, nor in the evening, except once at 1 am when we had friends coming over to our place.  Desert time!


On a yearly basis, I will drink 1359 coffees, consume 17 kWh to make them and this will cost me 4,34 EUR!.  It seems I drunk less coffees in July (lighter Green in the DNA image here above).  Correct, I was off on holiday. The month of May was incomplete (so lighter green).

Why did we use that principle called “NILM” in Smappee?

Nilm stands for “Non Intrusive Load Monitoring”.

Why did we implement this complex mechanism?  Could we not just simply measure each appliance in our house?

No !  You would never buy and install 70 (typical number of appliances) energy meters in your home.  The cost would be so high !  And it would not be practical either; would you really put a meter in the power socket behind your built-in fridge, and micro-wave.. ? And how would you measure your “Garage door motor” that is directly wired to your fuse panel?  How much time would you invest in installing and reading those meters?

So our conclusion was that if we wanted to provide you, our customer,  a “workable” and “affordable” solution,  then that solution had to:

  • to measure as much as possible appliances with just one sensor!  (versus  50+ unpractical “power plug meters” everywhere..),
  • measure the total of your home (in order to verify your bill),
  • easy to install (one sensor and not +50)
  • affordable (thus one sensor, no additional display required, .. )
  • provide real-time feedback of your total consumption down to the level of your appliances (achieve 12% savings, see further)
  • user friendly software (App based, smart phone, table)
  • Smappee doesn’t come with yet another display, but makes use of your smart phone or tablet (cost reduction)
  • Real-time info, view your home’s appliances from anywhere
  • Be able to measure your solar energy production!
  • measure the Power and Energy as accurate, if not better, than the utility meter (means the Voltage needs to be measured as well, variations of 10% during the day are normal)
  • The solution should be so fun and bring more “added value” than just measuring energy, as that alone, is boring!  (We added remote control from anywhere, detect if appliances are on or off: someone home? A burglar or the kids well home. Forgott to turn off my iron? ..
  • Be future proof ( Smart Grids and demand response, electric vehicles ..), be part of the new IoT (Internet of Things) community of interoperable devices (IFFT, Apple Homekit, etc.)

Inspired by Jules Verne

Jules Verne, a visionary in the years 1870!

In his century, around 1870, Verne wrote about space, air, and underwater travel before navigable aircraft and practical submarines were invented, and before any means of space travel had been devised. “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” (1870), and “Around the World in Eighty Days” (1873),  “Journey to the center of the earth”, “From the Earth to the Moon”, ..


Some of Jules Verne’s fantastic quotes that inspire me:

  • Science, my lad, is made up of mistakes, but they are mistakes which it is useful to make, because they lead little by little to the truth.
  • An energetic man will succeed where an indolent one would vegetate and inevitably perish  – The Mysterious Island (1874)
  • Anything one man can imagine, other men can make real.
  • On the surface of the ocean, men wage war and destroy each other; but down here, just a few feet beneath the surface, there is a calm and peace, unmolested by man
  • The sea is everything. It covers seven tenths of the terrestrial globe. Its breath is pure and healthy. It is an immense desert, where man is never lonely, for he feels life stirring on all sides.

My Dream, using Airborne Wind Energy to harvest electricity in the sea.

Our universities TU Delft, Fraunhofer in Germany, KU Leuven in Belgium, .. are developing kites that could solve our energy generation problem.  They believe that these huge kites could generate energy at a the same cost of a nuclear kWh.  But if you consider that these kites generate clean energy without nucleair waste and have no Carbon dioxide emissions, then that energy is much cheaper!

High Altitude Wind

High altitude winds are one of the largest untapped renewable resources in the world.  Professor Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institute for Science at Stanford University published research on the sector and concluded; “There is enough energy in high altitude winds to power civilization 100 times over.”

High Altitude Wind

BAT: The Buoyant Airborne Turbine


KITEnrg, Ampyx Power and Makani

Other companies like KITEnrg,  Ampyx Power in the Netherlands develop commercially available kites and airplanes.


Makani, a Google funded startup,  is developing an airborne wind turbine that generates more energy at lower cost than conventional wind systems. Our turbine uses less material and accesses more consistent wind at higher altitudes.

Storage in Redox Flow Batteries!

We have to store excess wind and solar energy in cost effective high capacity batteries.  Redox flow batteries can be used over and over.  The charged liquid can be store in huge thanks.  Thus almost unlimited capacity to store energy, cost effectively.


Electric Transportations?  Boats? See what Skysails does today.

SkySails out of Germany produces such kites in order to reduce the energy consumption of large ships.  They turn a big container ship or oil tanker in a sail ship. Nice, isn’t it. in Germany


 Electric Cars, finally!


Fly Electric, .. yes why not?!

Zeppelins for slow, long range and  Electric Helicopters for shorter, agile flights..

Electric homes

Homes become more and more energy efficient, and that’s super.  But home’s will have to store their energy, generated overday from their panels.  Or charge, cheap electricity in “off peak” periods (when there is excess wind in the grid) and store that cheap energy for later use when prices will be higher.  The demand of Energy will be managed by Home Energy Management solutions such as eg. Smappee! Tesla is preparing for this big business of local energy storage in home’s!


Finally, putting it all together into “My dream”

I dream of Airborne Wind Energy solution, in the Ocean, all connected with a big Power cable, around the world.  There is always wind somewhere.  As such we would be able to produce 24 by 7 and deliver it anywhere!

Big Energy Harvesting ships, filled with Flow Batteries to store the harvested energy in open sea. Energy harvested at high altitude with kites or planes.  The ships come to land and inject Energy in the Grid or distribute the “charged liquid” from the flow batteries to the municipalities for local, distributed generation of electricity.

As we have less and less base load electricity generation from coal and nuclear power plants, we have to build such end to end solutions to store energy and produce more, cost effective, renewable energy.  Does the above not sound feasible?  Universities, entrepreneurs dedicate their work on those solutions.  Are they stupid?  I don’t think so.

What are we waiting for?  It’s time to act, wake up !


Energy Savings.. what’s it all about?

Let’s take the example for electricity.  What is a kWh?  Well one kWh is the Energy consumed by an appliance of 1 kW “One kilo Watt” or 1.000 W (one thousand Watt) when is used during 1 hour.  Or an appliance of 500 W used during 2 hours. Yes, it is power multiplied by time you use an appliance.

So, when it comes to save on energy, there are two things to watch: first reduce the power of the appliance, less Watts, results in less Energy (Watt hours) consumed.  How?  Well in the case of light bulbs for example, you could replace an older incandescent light of eg. 100 W by a 10 W LED light that will provide you as much light!  You save a ten fold.  This works for lighting but also for your older house hold appliances as TV’s, Fridges, etc.

Another important parameter is the time an appliance is used.  Like for lights, make use of timers, presence detectors, ambient light sensors to turn lights on only when needed, i.e. someone is in the room and light is needed.  Here you have an impact on the quantity of energy used, the “hours” factor.

In order to manage your energy consumption, you’ll need tools.  The tool must be able to show you the power of each of your appliances and at the same time, register per appliance, how much time you use it per day, week, month and per year.  It will show you the kW x hours or kWh consumed per appliance!

Smappee is one that shows you the consumption per appliance on the Appliance DNA!


The DNA of my Expresso shows I make an average of 6x expresso’s per day, the machine takes 1138 W of power during 28 seconds per shot for a total of 3 minutes and 6 seconds per day.  The making of 6 expresso’s consumes 58 Wh or 0,058 kWh per day.  At a cost of 0,22 EUR per kWh: 0,01 EUR per day. The Year tab shows similar information: I drink 1365 expresso’s per year and this consumes 15 kWh and cost me 3,69 EUR.