A recent article on Mashable illuminates a growing niche that appears to be leveraging the tail end of the Web 2.0 movement. It weds the social side of the web with emerging smart grid technologies and products.  Mashable is known for their social media angle, so it makes sense for them to connect these dots — especially because many consider green tech and smart grid as the next “sexy” thing.  (Just ask the VCs.)

A match made in heaven?
It’s not immediately clear how these two fields intersect. Social media is driven by an online model (think Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn), while smart grid is largely a “real-world” issue. A plethora of new companies (some very well-funded, too) are looking for this connection. It looks to me like these are traditional smart grid products with a social cherry on top.  Real-world products connected to an individual’s home that sends information to a larger social network for visibility, management, and even competition.

Visibility + Competition
Just like GI Joe said, “Knowing is half the battle.” Improved visibility to actual resource usage will likely be a rude awakening for many consumers. Now add in the existing social graph. Check out this excerpt:

Rochester, NY-based Tenrehte is the maker of the Picowatt smart plug, a device that monitors the energy use of an individual device and relays that information over a Wi-Fi signal. What’s truly unique about these talking plugs is that they allow users to control appliances through a Facebook application.

oPower’s model charts a homeowner’s usage against other participants in their area, turning energy conservation into a simple savings game. It would work for me!  Say “double dog dare” and I cannot resist. And of course, mobile access is a key component in this game. There IS an app for that.

Why does Altia care?
Adoption rates are — without a doubt — driven by usability and the holistic user experience. Early versions of in-home energy monitoring systems were clunky and awkward. “Hard to use” meant that no one bought. However, newer gadgets make managing home energy usage more…well…manageable. It’s this new wave of products that Altia is helping to build and optimize for a better end-user experience.

What do you think?
How likely is success for these new smart grid products? Would you manage your home’s energy from a Facebook application? Would a “double dog dare” make you turn off the lights more?