At Curb, we believe the ways our society relates to energy are fundamentally broken.
Most people wouldn’t tolerate a grocery store that doesn’t post prices on food for sale; and nobody would tolerate a grocer that sends a bill for a multiple of the expected amount months after the fact. But that’s exactly how we pay for energy. We designed CURB to help people understand exactly where their energy is going in real time, to support them in making material changes to save money.
It turns out that the cleanest and cheapest energy is the energy that we don’t actually use. With a growing population, our society benefits from being efficient with our resources. Yet, today, it is impossible to make a connection between the actions you take in your home and the amount energy you use. That makes it extremely difficult for the average person to intuit ways to use less.
A curb goes inside an electrical breaker panel, measuring all the electrical usage and production in a home, building or solar array. The best ones do it on a circuit-by-circuit basis. This magical component, once installed, is never again seen by the customer. Thus, it is critical to create a physical form to which customers can rapidly develop a strong affinity – a relationship that should deepen and grow through engagement with software user experiences on mobile and wearable devices.
From a design standpoint, we had several competing goals. Functionally, CURB’s curb needed to be small enough to fit inside a tight space while exposing external interfaces — 4 voltage connectors, 36 CT clamp wires, Ethernet, a USB port and a memory card. Inside, it needed to house not only four high-speed digital signal processors, but an international power supply and a Home Plug networking controller.
Emotionally we set out to create a form that reflected all the power and intelligence inherent in the technology, while at the same time felt organic, friendly, inviting and easy-to-use – like our software user interface. Unlike products that get seen and handled on a daily basis, curbs are intended to be out of sight and out of mind until actionable inspiration is needed. If you leave your freezer door open or leave your curling iron on, you want to be told about it by an intelligent agent. And if your air conditioner needs repair, you want to be notified before it dies.
As a result, home owners are left with a very limited window of time to fall in love with the physical hardware — the actual brains being added to the breaker panel. Thus, the industrial design for this never-seen component is, in some ways, paradoxically more essential than for a device touched every day.
We incubated CURB for two years with prototype solutions that we tested in beta residential and commercial locations. This incubation period was extremely helpful because it gave our team a chance to understand the needs of our customers and to better deliver on their objectives for reduction in their energy usage. With this feedback in hand, we’ve been moving at high velocity. We went from a concept to our first custom hardware solution in less than 3 months; and then another 3 months to finalize features.
Once we started seeing the results of the CURB in action, we knew that we had an obligation to share our solution for safer homes and greater energy efficiency with the world – so people could get the information they need to take control of the energy consumption in their home.
Any device can leverage information that is beyond its physical sphere, thanks to Internet connectivity. Whether this means controlling lights remotely from your mobile phone or helping facility managers make their buildings more efficient, the connected future will affect each of us significantly. Our aim is to help people fall in love with their homes in such a way that it gives safety, peace of mind and energy savings right back to them.big data, clean energy, Design, energy, energy monitoring, hardware, hardware design, IoT, solar, startups