Gas Hackathon

September 2017 ยท 2 minute read

I recently took part in Launch Alaska’s Renewable Energy Reverse Hack-a-thon. The “reverse” part comes into play in that there are a handful of signifincatly-baked ideas sketched out by industry and user experts presented to each team.

I worked with Nigel Kibodeaux and Jazon Burnell to create a small web app that compares your real-time natural gas usage with your neighbors.

main day dashboard

Your utility isn’t giving you the data, however. They only check once a month to see how much to bill you. Our project relies on a small sensor that picks up radio frequencies broadcased by gas meters at your home. It’s connected to an internet-linked small Raspberry Pi, which in turn regurarly sends data to a database that allows developers to access and build off the data.

We guided our work under four main themes:

  • neighborhood comparisons (directly compare your usage with nearby houses)
  • dollars and cents (translate gas usage into monetary value)
  • near real-time feedback (focus on immediate use)
  • little nudges (bring small behavior suggestions into the app)

We found inspiration in some fascinating voter research that asks how people respond with information about their neighbors. To that end, we compared a user’s real time usage to a neighborhood integration.

hackaton group photo (Photo by Brendan Babb)

As the project was done a hackathon schedule we didn’t refine the interface far beyond the bare essentials. The integration of the handful of existing users with the AHFC’s Bulding Monitoring BMON API made accessing live data possible.

Additional sponsors and collaborators in the event included:

Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program (ANSEP), the Alaska Center for Energy and Power (ACEP), National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL), the Cold Climate Housing Research Center (CCHRC), and Code for Anchorage.