Ecoisme Is An Energy Consumption Device That Is Too Good To Be True

Ecoisme is an Indiegogo project that supposedly uses a single device to track the energy usage of each individual appliance or gadget throughout your home. However, upon further investigation, it seems that the company is fabricating many of its claims.

As a brief overview, Ecoisme is advertising that its single device can theoretically do things like alert you when your fridge is left open or your hair straightener is left on too long. While the company has had a tremendous surge of press over the last few weeks, it provides little to no explanation about how the technology actually works.

The only technical brief on the device’s funding page is that it connects to your home’s circuit breaker and combines “spectrum and power analysis” to identify each appliance’s power signature.

The device’s first monitoring method, Power Analysis, isn’t actually a real term. However, the company is most likely referring to nonintrusive load monitoring (NILM), a process invented at MIT in the 1980s to analyze changes in the power draw of specific devices. This process can theoretically do things like recognize that a hair straightener draws 2.5kW for an an average of 9 minutes. Machine learning then can use this information to (vaguely) predict that the next time a similar amount of power is used for 9 minutes, you are most likely using your hair straightener.

However, this technology is still developing and not by any means 100% reliable. Belkin, the arguably most advanced producer of consumer energy monitoring devices, has been working on NILM since before 2010. While Belkin previewed its NILM solution (titled Echo) at CES this year, it cautioned that the technology could still be more than a year away from a public release.

Spectrum Analysis, the second technology supposedly used by Ecoisme, is even more dubious. The project says it uses this technology to identify power consumption of devices like laptops, as “these devices produce unique noise in electric network”. In fact, Ecoisme says that it can actually recognize a TV or laptop’s “impulse power blocks” and identify the specific brand of the device.

Not only is this almost certainly impossible, but a google search for “impulse power blocks” only returns results for Ecoisme, meaning it is presumably a made up term.

Ultimately, the responsibility lies on Ecoisme to prove that their technology is legitimate. However, launching a flashy crowdfunding campaign with little to no technical explanation is a disservice to the entire tech community. Each crowdfunded device that can’t lives up to expectations will make it that much harder for real innovators to raise capital, which in the long run is a disservice to us all.