Boulder's Caffeine Fix Map Let's face it, Boulderites need their caffeine fix. Here's a map for local and visitors alike to discover some of the city's (and surrounding town's) best places to find a good cup of java.
I just took the survey at Xcel Energy's SmartGrid site on the Web, where the Colorado utility is looking for 10,000 volunteers to help gather information on its efforts to make Boulder one of the first "energy smart" cities in the country.
One of the key questions on the survey is whether I would be willing to change out my present thermostat with a thermostat designed for the SmartGridCity Home Energy Manager pilot study. I said yes.
The survey also asked if I would be willing to test new "in-home equipment" that gives more real-time information on my energy usuage. Yes again.
This past fall, we installed much more energy-efficient, double-paned windows in our home, and already we've seen lower utility bills from that. We also recently purchased new Energy Star-rated refrigerator and dish washer.
I'm not sure if I'll be selected to participate in this SmartGrid volunteer program, but I hope I will. The program is being watched closely around the country, where other utilities are looking at incorporating similar programs.
One of the Boulder TechStars companies we selected as a finalist for the IQ Innovations Awards this year was Intense Debate, which had developed some very nifty systems to create community among commenters on blogs, news sites, etc.
Intense Debate just announced it has been acquired by Automattic, a startup from the same people who brough us WordPress. I've met a few times with Intense Debate CEO Tom Keller, as we discussed some ways his company might move forward with traditional print media. With the Automattic deal, it will be interesting to see if Intense Debate now gets larger primarily through bloggers and other Web social media or if traditional print also is worked into the business model.
I've used Intense Debate on my blog, and although use has been somewhat limited due primarily to my small world of readers, I've always thought this Boulder startup had some great potential. Congrats to the Intense Debate team! Also happy to read that Intense Debate will still be available on Typepad, my blog home.
Mark Emery, left, executive director of Imagine!, gathered with Bob and Judy Charles, at the groundbreaking for the new Bob and Judy Charles SmartHome being built at 1806 Iris Ave., Boulder, Colo.
The Charles, with their donation of $100,000, helped launched a fund-raising drive to build two new SmartHomes, technology-assisted group homes for people with cognitive and physical disabilities.
Both homes also are being designed and built with the latest "green" energy-saving technologies. These will include solar and geothermal systems, energy efficient lighting and water conservation.
As a board member of the Imagine! Foundation, it's been our job to raise money helping to pay off the mortgages of several existing group homes. Now we have the opportunity to be part of this very exciting SmartHome project, which will not only benefit the people who will live in the homes, but be national example of how technology can be put to work to improve the lives of the home residents.
Imagine! now has its own Web site devoted to explaining the planning. technologies and progress of the SmartHomes, one of which is replacing an older group home here in Boulder and another that will be built at a Longmont site. An online donation form also is on the site.
This first SmartHome also has received a $250,000 grant from the city of Boulder and the construction team includes peh Architects, who donated the architectural plans; Deneuve as the lead contractor; JVA; Flatirons Inc.; and Seward Mechanical Systems.
Any donation, large or small, toward our fund-raising efforts will be recognized and will help in this very worthy cause. Personally, I would be willing to meet with anyone or any company interested in the SmartHome project or in Imagine!'s large task of serving people with disabilities.
Last night I finally got to really enjoy the Boulder County Business Report's 9th annual IQ Innovation Awards. Why? Well, for the past eight years I spent a good part of the summer leading up the event worrying, fretting and sweating out the event details, selecting winners, getting stories and videos completed, etc. as publisher and editor at the Report.
This year, I lent new Publisher Chris Wood a hand as a judge for the IQ Awards, and all I had to do after that was show up at the event and enjoy the evening. And it was fun!
After the winners were announced, I was poking around, tinkering with a new OptiBike, the Boulder-based winner in the Sports & Outdoor category. It's really about time for Optibike founder Jim Turner, who for 10 years has been trying to convince people that the idea of a electric bicycle actually makes sense. Of course, with rising gas prices and new awareness of a smaller carbon footprint, people have finally begun to listen.
As I poked around on the bike's controls, and flicked the on switch, much to my surprise it was ready to go. So off I went, sailing around CU Stadium Club event center on electric power. I have to tell you, these bikes are totally cool! Boulder Photographer Jonathan Castner caught this shot of me riding around the room.
The OptiBike's electric motor, with both 400 and 850 watt models, is hidden from view in the bike's aluminum frame, so the bike really looks like a souped-up mountain bike. It has a top speed of about 30 mph as you pedal, although I don't think I quite got there indoors at CU.
I was chatting with Jim's wife, who mentioned how fun it is to cruise up to some of Boulder's fast-riding bicylists, then really start pedaling as the electric motor kicks in. Zoooommmm....off you go around them all.
The bikes are a bit pricey, from $4,995 to $12,995, according to a story in the Boulder County Business Report, but imagine cruising up some steep hills using the bike's electric power.
I'm glad Optibike could capture an IQ Award this year, they are certainly a deserving small company, which is still manufacturing the bikes right here in Boulder.
About two years ago, I wrote about listening to the founder of this odd thing called Twitter speak to a blogger conference in Boulder. Founder Evan Williams admitted the site, where users text messages to each other of no more than 140 characters, was created "more or less on a whim."
I'll admit that at first I really didn't get it all. Yes, it seemed like a quick way to find out what friend was in what bar, but other than that, it didn't grab me at all.
This week, at a New Media Summit here in Boulder organized by Metzger Associates, I started to hear how companies and organizations are now using Twitter, from everything from customer service to firefighters telling displaced homeowners the location of wildfires.
One Colorado telecom company, EMBARQ, uses Twitter for customer service, reaching out proactively if a customer tweets about a problem they're having. So that's one new thing I learned -- there's a search engine for Twitter, called Summize. Turns out, the day after the New Media Summit, Twitter bought Summize for around $15 million, according to Silicon Valley Insider.
Twitter pretty much is creating its own vocabulary, with one site at Twittervision.com, showing where everyone is the world is "tweeting" from. Here's a fun site with a long list of new words from Tweeple, or Twitter members. Alltop.com is a site covering all of the "Twitterati" or top twitters. Attendees at the summit were invited to a Tweetup at The Cup coffeehouse in downtown Boulder later that night.
What else did I learn?
Here are a few sites and tidbits that I jotted down in my notebook that I still have to check out some myself:
* Wordtracker.com, a paid site but you can sign up for a free trial. Good for active Web marketers, helping them find: "What are people searching for on the Web?"
* Kwmap.net, a site described as "a keyword map for the while Internet." I have not really dug into this one, but it looks interesting.
* More and more companies, and it turns out, even countries, are creating a Facebook page. Did you know that Italy has a Facebook page? Talk about having a lot of "friends."
* I sat next to Lisa Everitt, a former Rocky Mountain News reporter now doing independent writing and PR. Just a few days earlier, I had connected with her on Linkedin. This is what is good about meetings like this, sometimes you gather good info from meeting people vs. listening to speakers. Lisa is writing a retail blog on BNET, a management resource with videos, podcasts and tools.
* To no surprise, the numbers are getting bigger on what will be spent on mobile marketing, and an entire panel was spent on the topic at the Summit. Worldwide, $16 billion will be going toward reaching users of mobile devices by 2011. But that's another entire blog.
* A final panel at the Summit included Daisy Whitney, a contributing columnist for TelevisionWeek, who writes a lot on the convergence of TV onto the Web. Naturally, she has AppleTV and watches quite a few Web shows. She's also doing her own videocast, New Media Minute, a good source to check out. Her favorites right now?
And she like ABC's The Circuit, watch a trailer on YouTube here.
At one point, there was discussion by Monica Maeckle, vice president for New Media for BusinessWire, about just how many links one should include in their blog. Linking is important to bloggers, and she said as a general rule, one link per 100 words is a minimum.
I put in 15 links in the blog, inspired by what I heard at the Summit. They can be a bit of a pain while you're blogging away, but I'll leave you with this quote from the Summit, "You're nothing if you're not a link."
Several small conferences exploring New Media, blogging and other Web 2.0 technology are taking place this summer along the Front Range, and I love the name of one I found out about today -- the Thin Air Summit.
I guess that's a warning to anyone coming into Colorado, and with the Democratic National Convention here this summer, indeed there may be even less air to breath.
The Thin Air Summit is scheduled for Nov.7-9 at the Colorado Art Institute, and organizers presently are looking for presenters. Preliminary plans promote the meeting as part education, part film festival for Web videos and part "envisioning." Not sure if folks will be "envisioning whirled peas," but we'll see.
Experts predict huge growth in video advertising on the Internet, growing sevenfold from $500 million in 2007 to $3.8 billion in 2012, an annual growth rate of 49.4 percent. I spoke recently to the Boulder Press Club on the topic of if traditional print publishers will survive the onslaught of new Web technology, and my basic presumption is yes, they will, but a good majority of print media are way behind the eight ball in getting onboard with new social networking ideas for the Internet products.
In my mind, video is probably one of the weaker areas for traditional print publishers. Although they're all creating blogs and using new ideas like reader-generated news, few are doing much in the Web video world. The New York Times is one strong exception to that.
The Thin Air Summit says it will explore where social media is headed, asking how to get beyond the early adopters and choosing which good characteristics need to be preserved or even further promoted.
A summit right here in Boulder coming up fast is Metzger Associates third annual New Media Summit, sponsored by Business Wire. I'm planning on attending this meeting, which will be 2 to 7 p.m., Monday, July 14 at the St. Julien Hotel in downtown Boulder. The conference fee is $50, and you can register by e-mail to email@example.com by July 11. Monika Maeckle, vice president of New Media, Business Wire, will head a panel including speakers from AdWeek Magazine, TelevisionWeek, The Denver Post and Metzger.
Meetups and other local conferences like these are great venues to meet people, listen to their ideas and hopefully stir up some creative thoughts of your own. Maybe I will see you there.
Boulder's Metzger Associates launched a new blog today called DNC After Dark, a great idea to offer up dining and entertainment tips for delegates to the Democratic National Convention in Denver this August.
I just led a discussion today at the Boulder Press Club about how traditional media must continue to adopt, innovate or even acquire new media tools if they are going to compete with the social networking wave capturing advertising dollars.
John Metzger actually has been on the new media forefront for PR and marketing companies, adding a digital side to his business several years ago and telling business clients how they, too, must be thinking of creating corporate blogs, better Web sites, etc.
With all of the national attention that will be focused on the DNC, Metzger's blog is not only a good idea for the delegates themselves, but, of course, a good way to get the Metzger name out to businesses.
The site just launched, and right now has links to only about six bars and 16 restaurants, but those numbers should climb pretty fast as word gets out.
The site also has a link to another Metzger blog, Media in the New Millennium, from the director of Metzger's New Media Practice. There you can read about plans for the New Media Summit at the St. Julien Hotel in downtown Boulder on Monday, July 14.
If you live in Boulder, you’re going to have the choice to have entirely new technology running in your home. If you learn how to manage it correctly, you might cut the price of your utility bill.
Or could you end up paying more?
When was the last time you got new technology for free? Your Internet connection, for example, added to your monthly bills. So did your cell phone. All things you use everyday, but you do pay for them.
Just how Xcel pays for the $100 million investment to make Boulder the nation’s first "Smart-Grid" city is still a bit hazy. Putting a “smart” meter on your home sounds like a way to help the environment, and Boulder officials tout the new technologies as another tool in their Climate Action plan.
In all the excitement, the subject of “pricing” really hasn’t come up much yet. But the Smart Grid also may open up the idea of “dynamic” or “time of day” pricing. In 2005, Xcel began charging seasonal prices, with higher rates in the summer. When I asked Xcel spokesman Tom Henley if some type of higher rates for “peak” hours vs. lower costs for “off-peak,” he said it’s “one of the possibilities.”
Getting “real-time feedback” on the price of that power and if renewable sources are available is what the Smart Grid can offer, explains Jonathan Koehn, Boulder’s environmental affairs manager. “Absolutely it is possible to lower your utility bill” by making more “conscious decisions” on how you use power to run, heat and cool your house.
Although the program is voluntary, Koehn expects smart meter installation to be pretty aggressive. Xcel says 25,000 meters could be installed by August, with 50,000 in place.
If the Smart Grid succeeds in Boulder, a rollout to customers around Colorado could be next. Xcel serves eight states, so the Boulder test is important.
Xcel will pay about 15 percent of the Smart Grid’s cost, spokesman Henley confirmed. Its partners – Accenture, Current Group, Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories and Ventyx -- also will put in funding. Grants and private funding are possible because although smart meters aren’t that new, with utilities in New York and California using them, the industry will watch the scale of converting an entire city.
“This is R&D at this point,” Henley says. “We hope to go in and prove out the value.” If customer savings can be proved, Henley adds, they might take their case to the Pubic Utilities Commission to try and recover funds.
“It’s a delicate balancing act” in programs like this, he says, and there are always “participants” and “non-participants.” Some unable to reap benefits from new technology could be “the ones who can least afford” new energy-efficient appliances or home improvements.
So what might Boulderites expect as they start using this in-home “black box” to monitor energy use?
It’s clear both Xcel, as well as the customer, will be tracking the results. Experts say the “peak” time energy is consumed is usually from about 4 p.m. into later in the evening, when people return from work, start cooking, washing dishes, watching TV, etc.
Under discussion by utilities across the U.S. is “Time of Day” pricing, or TOD. Ed Legge, spokesman for the Edison Electric Institute, an association of shareholder-owned electric companies, says there can be “political ramifications” toward TOD rates, especially with commercial customers since businesses can’t always shut down machinery to avoid peak hours.
Legge says utilities are moving toward what’s called “dynamic” pricing, where utilities send a signal to “smart” thermostats or appliances and to customers telling them they are in a higher-priced period.
For customers who have the technology to run their dishwasher or do their laundry when rates are cheaper, this might be a good thing.
But what happens to those, maybe a married couple who both work, who don’t avoid the peak hours? Will they pay more?
Boulder’s Smart Grid is much more than shifting energy use. It will modernize what Koehn calls a “fairly antiquated” grid. Customer service and reliability should improve, particularly during outages. As residents add solar, wind and plug-in electric car, the digital Smart Grid might reduce the need for another coal-burning plant.
Boulderites are Internet savvy, plugged in and early adapters of new technologies. Xcel made a natural choice by picking the city. But if it costs $100 million for a Smart-Grid city of 100,000, how much does it cost to wire a city like Denver, a city five times the size?
These are questions that eventually Xcel will need to answer. And as usual, you the consumer must ask, “What will all of this cost me?”
OK, after reading about another down day on the market and how Bear Stearns CEO just pocketed $63 million anyway, I felt like taking a walk and getting some fresh air. But wait a minute. It is raining and cold out, rather miserable weather.
So I punch in downtown Boulder Pearl Street Mall on Google Maps and notice there's now a "street view" for downtown Boulder, with much of Pearl Street, Spruce, Walnut and Canyon. But once you hit the pedestrian mall, you can't go any further. I presume this is because Google films their street views from a car or van, and, of course, no vehicles allowed on the walking mall.
Although I read about this new Google tool (and how a few people were embarrassed by being caught on camera, like the guy walking out of a strip club), I'd never tried it out.
It's really quite nifty. The areas available for the street view are shaded in yellow, and you can drag this little yellow man around to wherever you'd like to take a stroll. By moving your cursor right or left, you get a view up or down the street.
So there I was on the corner of 11th and Pearl, looking at Old Chicago but unable to cruise down the mall. I really thought maybe they captured some of the street entertainers. All I could do was jump my little guy over the pedestrian mall down to the parking garage at 15th and stare longingly back down the mall where I had hoped to go.
Well, maybe this is all for the best. If you really need to get some air and take in some people watching, shouldn't you just get down to the real mall itself? Spring is here, the downtown mall flowers should be blooming soon. And if you've never seen Zip Code Man, then by all means, plan some downtown mall walks real soon.
Startups and more startups, my head is spinning with them.
Yes, we even had a Startup Weekend here in Boulder, where in a 48-hour marathon, about 70 local developers, marketers and idea people set out to create and launch an Internet company over the weekend. One heck of an idea -- and in fact, a new company, VoSnap, came out of the creative process, led by Andrew Hyde, owner of Boulder-based Endoze Design. Talk now is to somehow take this idea to other cities for their own Startup Weekends ... we could have startups coming out of our ears.
I sat at Laughing Goat coffeehouse on Saturday morning and monitored the Startup Weekend process a bit from my laptop, as participants blogged and even sent out live video of them doing yoga between brainstorms.
We wrote a two-part series in the Boulder County Business Report in June that we called "Return of the Dot-Com," listing such new companies as ConfluenceCommons.com, Clickcaster.com, Me.dium.com and CollectiveIntellect.com. VCs are funding many of these new ventures again, much less gun shy now than they were following the dot-com bust.
In just the past few days, I've heard about several new Internet startups, including a Web-based mapping software company here in Boulder called MyOnlineMaps and a company coming out of the TechStars venture called villij. We've also been tracking another TechStars company in the Business Report called Intense Debate.
All of these, and many more, are evidence that the Boulder Valley remains a hotbed for entrepreneurial ideas. And we'll be showcasing some really great innovations at our annual IQ (Innovation Quotient) Awards on the evening of Wednesday, Aug. 15. If you like networking and meeting with innovative businesspeople, this is one of the best events all year.
One more plug -- we break news of many of these startups every day on our new BCBRdaily, a daily e-news that we send out every weekday afternoon. If you want to get breaking local business news you often will not find anywhere else, just sign up at the Business Report eb site, by clicking on Register for E-Newsletters. Why wait for the morning paper to get your business news?