The Green Button

Green buttonThis past Sunday afternoon I had the pleasure of being on the judges panel at the NYC Cleanweb Hackathon at NYU ITP. There were thirteen hacks presented to the judges. Of them, probably half had incorporated the "green button" for getting your utility data into their app.

The Green Button is an initiative promoted by Aneesh Chopra, the CTO of the United States. In a speech last fall, he challenged the utility industry to come up with a simple way to allow consumers to access their utility data. Last week, three big California utilities announced they had made the Green Button available on their websites.

And by sunday, the green button was in a half a dozen web and mobile apps that had been created over the weekend. This is the kind of innovation that gets me excited. The Green Button is like OAuth for energy data. It is a simple standard that the utlities can implement on one side and web/mobile deveopers can implement on the other side. And the result is a ton of information sharing about energy consumption and in all liklihood energy savings that result from more informed consumers.

The Green Button follows on the success of the Blue Button, a similar initiative that allows veterans to get at their medical data.

I'm a big fan of simplicity and open standards to unleash a lot of innovation. APIs and open data aren't always simple concepts for end users. Green Buttons and Blue Buttons are pretty simple concepts that most consumers will understand. I'm hoping we soon see Yellow Buttons, Red Buttons, Purple Buttons, and Orange Buttons too.

Let's get behind these open data initiatives. Let's build them into our apps. And let's pressure our hospitals, utilities, and other institutions to support them. I'm going to reach out to ConEd, the utility in NYC, and find out when they are going to add Green Button support to their consumers data. I hope it is soon.