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Daedalus was the mythical great architect and artificer of the classical world. Today, embedded intelligence is enabling the most profound changes in the way we create and use buildings since his day.

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Tuesday
Apr072009

A Caffeinated view of Aging Energy Infrastructure

The local coffee shop, The OpenEye Cafe, has an outsized role in thinking about smart buildings and the smart grid. Each day when I leave the gym, I go to the OpenEye to caffeinate myself out of my post exercise torpor and to write.

The OpenEye is a great college town coffee shop, even if it is in Carrboro, the town next door to the college town. Its main room is huge for a coffee shop, fitted out with as many old couches and comfy chairs as it has little tables surrounded by mismatched chairs. It has numerous small side rooms, a patio in the back, more sidewalk seating in the front.

This size gives it a wonderful variety of subcultures, as there is the construction contractor corner, klatches of endurance runners, and every college town’s PWDIBs (people who dress in black). On weekends, the Men Who Run in Kilts fill one end, while students come in to tolerate Mom & Dad buying them some coffee. The Baristas and their friends, of course, display a cornucopia of piercings and tattoos.

So yeah, it’s a great coffee house, but how does this tie to aging infrastructure, aside from the fact that I write there?

At any time, there are 15 to 40 laptops running in the main room. When the OpenEye moved into these larger quarters, they ran surface mounted conduit and put plugs all over the walls. Window seats, with a plug under the table and a view, are at a premium. Cords snake out from the walls to the couches in mid-room tables. I wonder how significant electricity is as a cost of the shop.

There are frequent scheduling negotiations as well. Are you leaving soon? Can you plug this in for me? Excuse me you seem to have knocked out my plug. I hate those Macintosh plugs with the transformer right on the wall plug. Because they need their bottoms supported, their owners always plug into the top plug, blocking the lower plug.

But still, where is the aging infrastructure? Well, just as none ever thinks of the aging grid, no one ever thinks about wearing out receptacles. Despite being just over two years old, every receptacle in the store is one out and “loose”. Normally a receptacle hugs a plug, and provides some friction to sliding out. Not so here. With every receptacle being plugged and un-plugged countless times a day, they have actually worn out. I have to watch the battery display at the bottom of the screen, for the plugged in laptop may no longer be charging.

Still, it’s a great coffee shop, and a great community crossroads, even if it needs “plug maintenance”

 

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Reader Comments (1)

So if a man were to say, possibly going to the Open Eye on Friday May 8th, when might your post-gym visit occur?

April 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJohn deVille

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