The issue: Consumers have scant information about power usage. Google PowerMeter, currently in private beta only with Google employees, runs on a Web site and reports usage for electrical components in the home.
"Today, it is nearly impossible for most of us to know how much electricity we're using in our home at any given moment," says Ed Lu, the lead engineer on Google PowerMeter. "Near-real-time access to data on energy use leads to a 5% to 15% reduction in consumption. If half of American households cut their energy demand by just 10%, it would be the environmental equivalent of taking 8 million cars off the road."
The smart grid will be game-changing, but there is some debate about whether information alone will prompt action. "People need to feel tangible benefits in order to change their consumption behavior," says Breen. "I am optimistic about enterprise-focused smart-grid companies like EnerNOC and Comverge, who send checks to their customers who agree to reduce their consumption during times of peak demand."
Some suggest making the information visible in a public way. Lorie Wigle, the general manager for eco-technology at Intel, suggests an opt-in program for home owners where usage is reported on a public Web site.
8. SSD RAID
Solid-state drives are already an attractive option in the PC market. In enterprise computing, a solid-state drive RAID array -- made up of several linked SSD drives -- represents a major shift in cost and performance.
Normally, to achieve high performance for a storage-area network, enterprises buy hundreds of magnetic hard disks and use only the outer portion of the drive for the fastest speeds. With a solid-state drive in a RAID configuration, the entire disk is used for performance. This lowers the costs, because an enterprise needs to buy fewer drives and use all of the space on each drive. One example of this is the Super Talent RAIDDrive, which will be available later this year. The company promises an enterprise version that will wind up costing less than a magnetic-disk array, because each SSD will be used to full capacity. (Super Talent has not released exact pricing yet.)
"You are able to take advantage of the performance benefits of the SSD and roll up to the RAID level, in particular the IOPS," says Jeremy Werner, a product expert at Super Talent. (Input/output operations per second, or IOPS, are a measurement of overall storage speed.) "Most servers have random traffic patterns to the IO storage array," he says. "For the workstations to get good performance, they need to have high IOPs, or how many transactions they can do per second."