With the weather getting colder and colder (at least in the Northern hemisphere), it was becoming increasingly hard for me to keep my house the right temperature to balance my comfort, my roommate’s comfort, and our sharply rising electric bill. When I left for work, I would turn the temperature down to save on heating while everyone was out of the house. When I got home, I had to wear a coat to stay warm while the heat struggled to get the house back up to a low-normal comfort level. By bedtime, it would be warm and I could fall asleep, knowing that I was wasting heat during the hours when I was under sheets and blankets.
Noticing how compromised both my comfort and my energy savings were using the above genius scheme, I decided to purchase a programmable thermostat. At last, I could create a program that warms the house in the morning before I wake up, cools it down during the day, warms it back up for my evening at home, then cools back down again while I sleep at night. All is good.
Except… I had to wake up early to go to a breakfast meeting with a colleague. When I swung my legs out of the bed, I realized it was frigidly cold, to the point where I was literally shivering by the time I got in the shower. By the time I left, the morning heat program was finally coming on. At least my roommate will wake up warm!
Speaking of him, he had to wait at home the other day for the cable guy. Rather than letting the house freeze while he waited, he overrode the program to keep the house warm until he left at lunchtime. The only problem was that he didn’t start the program back up, so the heat ran all day, while we met friends out on the town bar and stayed out until midnight. I guess concessions must be made for comfort. Too bad those concessions are going to send me to the poorhouse.
The worst, though, was when I got the flu, and was freezing all the time. My roommate was miserable the whole weekend, with me keeping the temperature in the house hot enough to cook barbecue. I suppose we can’t all be comfortable all the time.
Or can we? Why is it so much to ask for personalized temperature control that adapts to your usage? Throw up some motion sensors to detect when you’re home or not, create heat zones for each room, and have the system respond quickly enough and you’re almost there. In the house of the future, we’ll all be comfortable all the time, while only using the minimum of energy to respond to our needs. Oh, and there will be lasers. And force fields.
Computer power management is a very similar system. Only a few years back, computers were houses without thermostats, which is to say that they ran full-blast all the time. The last 5 years have seen huge strides, and all modern hardware and operating systems ship with the computing equivalent of a “thermostat” – a hardware/software system that allows you to turn up or turn down a system’s “heat”. DVFS is an example of one such technology; sleep and hibernate states are another.
More recently still, a number of companies have produced software that leverages these computing technologies in a manner similar to a programmable thermostat. Much as you would use your brain to choose the best times for different heat programs, these systems rely on an administrator to choose appropriate times for different power settings, such as when employees will be in or out of the office. And, just like in my examples above, sometimes these policies are not appropriate for a pattern of usage. While this rarely has catastrophic results, frequently time is lost, or machines stay active when they shouldn’t, or both.
Granola is the crazy future house of the future… of tomorrow. It tracks how a machine is used, and builds models that predict future usage. It adapts to changes in behavior, quickly enough to go unnoticed. It responds differently to different usage patterns, such as the patterns produced by two different users. And it can co-exist comfortably if more than one user or application is hanging around the house. While it can’t quite cure the flu yet, we’re working on it, and the next generation will only be better, faster, and more intelligent. Because really, having your computer power management work well isn’t too much to ask.