Not so much a replicating idea, as an idea that has world-changing potential… but which as far as I’m aware isn’t being executed in a way which will allow the thing to go viral. This is something that badly needs to be open-sourced.
What it is, is a gadget that clamps onto your electricity mains coming into the house, and which provides an easy, centralised graphical-display as to how much electricity is being used in a house/building at any given time… preferably with some sort of pavlovian thing (eg: red=too much!) so people instinctively try to keep usage within the green. I’m pretty sure that the main reason people use a lot of electricity is similar to the reason so many people get into debt… at any given point, they’ve got no idea what their current state is. Simply by being conscious of the current state pre-disposes people to being in control of it.
It’s an idea I’ve been sitting on for about 10 years… A neighbour of mine who was an electrical engineer got as far as assembling the bits… but my notions of interface were a bit limited… and were sunk as soon as we did some measurements of what different household appliances etc actually use…
… heating water swamps everything. Things like lights, TVs on standby, chargers etc were rendered irrelevant by the thermostat coming on and off.
This an area where crowd-sourcing design would have helped… because since then, a couple of gadgets have come out of the woodwork which use this idea, but tackle interface in different ways.
And they’re all too expensive and I don’t think the interface is quite right yet. It would be cool if you could morph them with something like this :
and have something which allows you to compare your scores with other people over the web. Maybe even control your appliances via the web, but that’s getting into much more of a hardware overhead. You’d need to make electric plugs that a) controlable via the web and b) measure the electricity going through them, and wifi it back to a central unit.
Still, why not?