The Department of Energy on Monday officially launched a competition for software developers to use household energy consumption data tracked by utilities companies to create the most useful Web and mobile applications they can.
Participants in the the first ever Apps for Energy competition will earn more than just the satisfaction of helping consumers reduce energy consumption and save money, though. The Energy Department is offering a total of $100,000 worth of cash prizes for the winners of the contest.
Eight winners will be selected on May 22 to split the pot by a public vote and a panel of six expert judges, including Patricia Hoffman, Assistant Secretary for Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability at the Energy Department and Bill Reichert and Guy Kawasaki, Managing Directors at Garage Technology Ventures.
The grand prize winner will receive a $30,000 prize, second place will be awarded $15,000, and another $15,000 will be awarded to the grand prize winner among student entrants. The actual sums awarded will add up to $93,000, with $7,000 reserved for travel expenses for the winners to D.C.
“The Apps for Energy began as a general interest in leveraging the power of prizes and competitions to inspire innovative software development and design to help solve problems in the energy arena,” an Energy Department spokesperson told TPM via email.
And responding to earlier questions about the usability of the utilities data provided under the Energy Department’s “Green Button” data initiative, reportedly only available in the semi-arcane comma separated values format and by direct download from the utilities webpages, the Energy Department clarified a few things.
“Green Button also supports XML-formatted data,” a spokesperson told TPM. “XML was selected because it is one of the most common standards for data on the web.”
Furthermore, responding to the question about the inability for apps to directly harvest regular updates of energy usage data from utilities without having customers expressly request the download first, the Energy Department acknowledged it was an issue currently being worked on.
Though the Green Button program “includes the ability for customers to grant permission to make utility data directly available to third party developers, this is not yet implemented and will require additional work and regulatory assessment before we can be sure that the standard meets all security and privacy requirements,” the Energy Department’s spokesperson said.
Still, it seems the Green Button challenge is doing what it can to make the effort appealing to budding developers.