Smart Energy Report: The online guide to your energy habits

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Regular readers will be aware that we’ve been working with the folks at British Gas to take a look at their new smart meters. So far we’ve covered how the meters work and the benefits they bring to individual households as well as the environment in general (through encouraging us to consider our energy consumption). In this final instalment, we’ll be looking at the Smart Energy Report (SER) which is a free online tool provide by British Gas to analyse your energy consumption habits.

Before we explain some of our findings, check out this intro video:

The Smart Energy Report is available to all British Gas customers who have opted to upgrade to smart meters. It enables you to see your past hourly, daily, weekly or monthly energy usage and how much it cost you. Another interesting element of the report is the “Explore by use” page which gives you a breakdown of what services (appliances, hot water, cooking, etc.) use the most energy and how much they’ve cost you. In our case, the cost of using appliances was more than four times what we generally spent on lighting – they clearly know we sit in the dark on our computers!

Check out this example of a Smart Energy Report:

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In addition to providing these interesting stats, the SER also provides personalised tips on how you can save energy as well as a comparison of your household consumption compared to similar households in the local area. As we’re a house full of technology it’s not surprising to learn that we’ve been using around 40% more electricity than our neighbours! Obviously this is not something to be proud of as it means we’re spending more and that we’re not really doing ‘our part’ when it comes to trying to tackle energy usage and its related environmental impact.

Once you’ve had the smart meters installed, you will be emailed your Smart Energy Report or you can access it any time via the British Gas web site. Those who don’t have an online account need not panic as the company will also post out your report, seven days after each bill. In order to receive the most detailed report, customers need to opt in to half-hourly meter readings (which are done automatically of course). However, if you’re happy with a less detailed report, then can you opt in for daily readings.

To find out more about the Smart Energy Report and the new smart meters, visit www.britishgas.co.uk/smart

 

The words above are our own, but in the interest of transparency this post should be considered as sponsored.

Smart Meters – A look at their global rollout

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As part of our ongoing series with the folks at British Gas, this time we’re looking at the roll out of smart meters around the world. These days it’s well accepted that tackling environmental issues, such as energy consumption, is something that needs to be done at a global level. Compared to some of our European neighbours, I think it’s fair to say we consider ourselves to be at the forefront of new technology. However, when it comes to embracing smart meters, we’re far behind the likes of Italy where an incredible 94% (37 million) households now use smart meters.

In fact, the roll out of smart meters is being embraced around the world. According to research by Berg Insight, conservative estimates forecast that between 90-130 million meters will be installed every year from now until 2022.  In the USA it’s predicted, by the US Energy Information Administration, that nearly a quarter (23%) of electrical customers now have smart meters.

Closer to home, in Ireland, there was a large-scale trial of smart metering which aimed to achieve a 2% decrease in energy usage as well as to assess the response of customers to this new technology. Following the success of this trial, the Commission of Energy Regulation announced the approval to rollout smart meters between 2014 and 2019.

In the UK, in addition to the work being done by British Gas, there is also a trial by Northern Powergrid which has implemented a “Customer-Led Network Revolution”.  This involves trailing a number of smart grid solutions and energy efficient technologies such as solar PV panels, heat pumps, electric vehicles and the installation of 14,000 smart meters in the North East and Yorkshire.

The programme will also deploy new technology on the electricity network and implement commercial solutions such as tariffs and different pricing structures. Northern Powergrid aims to create a successful and beneficial smart grid solution and is trialing ‘time-of-use’ tariffs to encourage the use of electricity during off peak periods.

You can find out more about smart meters in this video from British Gas and via their dedicated web site.

We are working with British Gas on a smart meter campaign. The words and opinions above are ours, however this should be considered a ‘sponsored post’.

Update: Living with British Gas Smart Meters

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We’ve already given away a digital camera as part of our collaboration with the folks at British Gas, who are looking to raise awareness and uptake of their smart meters. This week we’re going to take a look at the ‘journey so far’ and share some additional information about why this technology represents the future.

As part our work with British Gas, I had two smart meters installed at home earlier this year. In addition to the aforementioned benefits of not having to manually take and send readings, the other key benefit of smart meters is the improved visibility of how much energy you are consuming. This is possible thanks to a nifty energy monitor which wirelessly communicates with your meters and gives you a history of your energy usage as well as the cost.

It’s quite entertaining (and, of course, informative) to watch the monitor change as you turn on a kettle, or hit the standby button on your slightly-bigger-than-needed TV. You end up running around the house trying to work out what’s using electricity – which I guess is the point! Admittedly the novelty of this does wear off after a while but then you start to use it differently, for example comparing usage month to month.

British Gas have produced the following interactive infographic which takes a look at energy consumption:

Perhaps it’s because I’m a geek at heart, but ultimately I have the opinion that you can’t have too information when it comes to how much you are being charged for services such as gas, electricity and your phone. With the latter of those, I’ve always opted for itemised bills, simply because I don’t like to have any grey areas when it comes to why my bill was X amount. The roll out of Smart Meters is a step in the right direction for bringing clarity to your energy bills. British Gas have released this slick video which aims to highlight the benefits:

You can also find out more information on the firm’s smart meters page.

 

We are working with British Gas on a smart meter campaign. The words and opinions above are ours, however this should be considered a ‘sponsored post’.

Win a Kodak EasyShare camera courtesy of British Gas

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What’s the deal?

We’ve teamed up with the folks at British Gas to look at how they’re introducing Smart Meters to their customers. This comes off the back of a recent EU directive which set the ambitious target of having smart metering systems in 80% of UK households by 2020. British Gas are seen as leading the way in rolling out smart meters and they are working with blogs like ours to help raise awareness of the benefits of this ‘smart future’.

So, what does a Smart Meter do?

Smart meters replace current gas and electricity meters. British Gas are doing this upgrade free of charge. In addition to the new meters you’ll also get a smart energy monitor (that can easily be placed in a kitchen or dining room) which shows your energy use in pounds and pence. Readings from the smart meters are automatically sent to British Gas, which means you don’t have to submit your meter readings – avoiding the sometimes back breaking task of getting under the stairs with a torch! It also brings to an end the era of estimated bills. British Gas uses the consumption readings to provide you with a full array of clever insights into your consumption, including personalised energy efficiency advice.

You can find out more about the technology via their microsite and this YouTube video:

What are the other benefits of these new meters?

In addition to eliminating estimated bills and giving customers highly accurate usage information, the roll out is also going to benefit the UK economy too, as summed up nicely in this infographic:

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Did you mention a competition?

Yes, well remembered! To celebrate the launch of this campaign, British Gas have kindly provided us with a Kodak EasyShare Sports camera, which has 12 Megapixels fixed focus lens, a 2.4” (6.1 cm) LCD, and also captures video… and can go almost anywhere since it’s also waterproof (3 m/10 ft) and dustproof!

To enter, just visit our Competwition page here!

Want to register your interest in getting a free Smart Meter upgrade?

Great stuff, British Gas have a dedicated page for this – here

GCHQ launch new online “Can You Find It?” challenge

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Back in 2012 the folks at GCHQ (the UK Government Communications Headquarters) launched an online challenge aimed at both experienced and self-taught techies to crack a series of cryptic codes. This proved incredibly popular with the site receiving over 3.2 million unique users and over 5,000 entries.

This year they’ve followed this up by launching a new “Can You Find It?” challenge where you have to find and solve 5 codes that they’ve hidden around the web. The aim of these online challenges is to help the agency identify the Alan Turings of tomorrow. The complex codes in the current challenge have been created by a GCHQ team of top mathematicians aiming at recruiting the smartest, not necessarily the most experienced candidates. GCHQ’s Head of Resourcing, Jane Jones, said: “The 21st century is confronting us with online threats that are difficult and dangerous, so we want employees who have evolved with the ever-changing digital world and therefore have the right skills to combat these challenges. It’s a puzzle but it’s also a serious test – the jobs on offer here are vital to protecting national security.” 

By taking part and completing the challenge you can discover whether you have the right skills to be employed by a national intelligence and security agency that works in partnership with MI5 and MI6. Prove your intellect and tenacious creativity and get a chance to support the Government’s national cyber security agenda. In addition to a potential job at GCHQ with a salary of between £26-£60k (depending on experience and qualifications) the competition also gives you the chance to enter a prize draw to win a Google Nexus 7 or a Raspberry Pi, i.e. a credit-card sized computer that plugs into a TV and keyboard to help people all over the world learn programming.

Starting from ‘Can you Find it?’ entrants will have six weeks to hunt down four codes. Once found, each one has to be entered into the challenge website to unveil the next clue until the final one is discovered

This was a sponsored post.

Real-Life Car Pinball Showcases Ford’s New Technology

As a tech blog we receive hundreds of emails each week, mainly from marketing companies asking us to review their client’s latest product. We would therefore consider ourselves quite proficient in “marketing speak” but we have to confess that “brand pillars” is a new one to us. The four “pillars”, based on different technologies, over at car giant Ford are: Quality, Green, Safe and Smart.

To showcase these technologies, the company has created a number of videos and tests. For example, to demonstrate the effectiveness of their 1.0-litre EcoBoost engine and to prove how powerful it is, they took one to Nurburgring track and compared it (with favourable results) with a Ferrari Enzo!

This time around, they are keen to demonstrate their Active Park Assist technology, which helps steer you in to even the tightest of spaces. You simply push a button to kick in the car’s sensors which then, as you drive around, locate a big enough space to park in. It will then steer to you in to the space and all you have to do is follow the on-screen instructions and audible signals to operate the accelerator, gears and brake.

To put this to the test they went to the centre of Paris, where parking is notoriously hard to find and often very tight when you find a space. You can watch the video here:



These are just two of the technologies being put to the test. To fully demonstrate Ford’s other remarkable technologies, they have filmed a series of dramatic digital films which test the technologies in amazing ways. You can view these and find more information by heading over to Ford.

Sponsored Post

Web Performance and E-Commerce

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Statistically, the world of e-commerce has never seen so much action. For e-retailers looking to make a living from their online services, this should be really good news. It was reported that at the end of 2012, Black Friday and Cyber Monday saw an impressive total of 57.3 million visits to online retailers across the United States. This led to a total of $172 billion in sales. At the same time, access online rose significantly in the world of mobile devices – increasing by 18%. For those operating e-retail sites, this is a pretty extraordinary time to make money. The problem is that the importance of web performance is not as widely known as it should be, meaning that businesses are effectively losing money that they could be making. Load time is a massive factor when it comes to browsing the web, and users won’t stick around if a site is wasting their time.

Web Performance

As the online world grows, content is becoming increasingly linked with how it is presented and rendered within the browser. It all comes down to how the user receives it. For this reason, improving web performance might be the most important thing for e-retailers right now. When the content and layout of a site is perfect, it would be such a shame for it to suffer from a failure to effectively deliver itself to potential consumers. To make best use of the business that e-commerce is capable of bringing, enhancing website performance is absolutely crucial. According to studies, 57% of consumers don’t stick around for more than three seconds after they’ve clicked on a link. A user might miss out on the opportunity of a lifetime simply because that website won’t load in a matter of seconds. Imagine the business lost out of slow loading time?

Monitoring and Testing

All services online have a great opportunity to enhance web performance. With a bit of time, e-retailers can look into the vast amount of website monitoring companies widely available – functioning to provide the tools needed to really make a difference when it comes to site delivery. Monitoring works in a unique way, providing retailers with a way into the specific site through the eyes of their users. Essentially, the monitoring that takes place allows retailers to gain a user’s perspective on the performance on their site across a myriad of data centres, working with that in mind. Website performance monitoring services are also widely available, giving retailers a good idea of how their site might handle an increased amount of traffic at any given time. Knowing how significantly an increase in clicks slows the site’s load time is infinitely important when it comes to successfully maintaining any website.

 

[This was a 3rd party supplied sponsored post]

Great PAYG and SIM-only deals from Virgin Mobile

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Virgin Mobile offers a wide range of mobile phones available on a multitude of different pay monthly, pay as you go, and excellent SIM only tariffs. The network’s website, http://www.virginmobile.com/vm/genericContent.do?contentId=all.special.offers.shop.sm018,  also promotes an impressive selection of special offers which are well worth investigating when looking for your next mobile phone deal.

Pay as you go from Virgin Mobile

Virgin Mobile currently offers thirty-five different mobile phone models, available without a contract, on pay as you go. From uncomplicated easy-to-use models, through to the latest Smartphones, the following are five examples of excellent value pay as you go phones currently being offered by Virgin Mobile:

Nokia 100 – Pay As You Go (PAYG) – Only £19.99 including free £10 airtime
The Nokia 100 is a sturdy, easy to use, mobile phone featuring large digits and intuitive colour graphics. This Nokia is ideal for those looking for a straightforward mobile phone without complicated features and comes with a 2 year manufacturer’s warranty for your peace of mind.

Blackberry Curve 9320 – Pay As You Go (PAYG) – Only £139.99
The Blackberry Curve 9320 packs a punch and ships with great features such as a 3.2 megapixel digital camera, a 2 gigabyte removable memory card, and a dedicated Blackberry Messenger (BBM) button. The Blackberry comes out of the box with 12 months free BBM and E-mail and £10 airtime, plus 300 free text messages.

ZTE KIS White – Pay As You Go (PAYG)
A Smartphone for less than £60: The ZTE KIS runs the world’s most popular mobile operating system, Android and is available on pay as you go from Virgin Mobile for £59.99. This great value model comes packed with great features such as a 3.2 megapixel digital camera and a crystal clear 3.5 inch LCD touch screen. The ZTE KIS comes out of the box with 12 months free data and £10 airtime, plus 300 free text messages.

Nokia Asha 300 – Pay As You Go (PAYG) – Only £69.99
The Asha 300 is Virgin Mobile’s lowest priced Pay As You Go mobile phone to come with an integral 5 Megapixel digital camera and a powerful 1GHz processor. Utilise your 12 months free data out of the box with the pre-installed Facebook and Twitter apps. The Nokia Asha 300 comes with 12 months free data and £10 airtime, plus 300 free text messages.

Samsung Galaxy Ace
The Galaxy Ace runs the world’s most popular mobile operating system, Android and is currently on offer on PAGY for £99.99. This great model based on the popular Galaxy series is packed with some amazing features for the price, such as a 5 megapixel digital camera with integral flash, a super-bright 3.5 inch LCD touch screen, and Satellite Navigation via the built-in GPS and Google Maps. The Galaxy Ace comes with 12 months free data and £10 airtime, plus 300 free text messages.

SIM only deals from Virgin Mobile

Many people would like to keep their existing mobile phone and a SIM only deal from Virgin Mobile is an informed way to make big savings without taking on a new phone, or lengthy contract. It is possible to choose from a range of pay as you go options with flexible add-ons and freebies, depending on how much you top up each month. Alternatively, you may opt for a 30 day rolling contract (each with an optional free Blackberry BBM/E-mail add-on).

 

[This post was supplied and sponsored by Virgin]