Smart frames to track utility costs for Burbank residents

Smart frames to track utility costs for Burbank residents
Burbank-based Ceiva has created a digital photo frame that connects to smart grid systems so residents don’t have to take the extra step of going online to check their usage.
(Courtesy of Ceiva)

A small group of Burbank residents soon will be equipped with digital picture frames that display not just family snapshots, but also how much energy and water they are using — and how much money it’s costing them.

The year-long project piloted by Burbank Water and Power follows the lead of the utility’s counterpart in Glendale, which launched a similar project earlier this year.

Officials hope awareness among customers of their personal energy and water consumption could spur more people to conserve, helping utilities meet statewide energy goals.

In Burbank, where the electric rates were raised by 1.75% this year, Jeannette Meyer of Burbank Water and Power thinks the frames will change how people think about energy.


“None of this is to say we want customers to go without,” Meyer said. “But if we can get all customers to think about their usage and control it a little bit more, that helps us to keep rates down for everybody.”

Made by Burbank-based Ceiva Logic, the frames communicate with smart meters to display graphs showing how many gallons of water are used each day of the week. Energy can be tabulated on an hourly, daily or weekly basis.

The utility will manage about three slides among personal photographs customers can “send” to the frames via cell phone or computer.

Initially, 50 Burbank residents will receive the frames, possibly by August, Meyer said, although it is still undecided on who will get them.


In Glendale, 10 frames are currently being used by city employees and others “willing to deal with the growing pains,” said Martin Powers of Glendale Water & Power.

By the end of the year, 45 frames will be given to an as-yet unknown group of Glendale residents.

Powers has had one in his living room since March. When he’s away at work, electricity costs Powers 4 cents an hour, he’s learned, but 6 to 7 cents when he returns home and turns the lights on. With various bedroom lights and the television on, he knows it will rise to 14 cents.

“It really has made me more aware of what I’m using and how I’m using it,” he said. “I use the air conditioner a lot less.”

Last year, when several vendors approached Glendale to sell the personal consumption tracking devices, Powers said Ceiva presented the only device to feature personal photographs.

He and Meyer agree that this personal touch will get residents to pay closer attention.

“It tells a story of your life,” Powers said. “The fact that you can get a little bit education out of it — it’s a very powerful tool.”