Market Research and Insight

There’s no doubt the web can be fun. Too much fun, in fact, as anyone who’s started out with a work-related Google search and...

There’s no doubt the web can be fun. Too much fun, in fact, as anyone who’s started out with a work-related Google search and ended up, three hours later, with a $100 email receipt from Amazon and a new high score on Bejeweled can attest. But what about that newer internet on its way, the internet of things? Can the smart grid really be entertaining?

Yes … or, at least, online videos about the smart grid can be.

There’s venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, for example, taking on the provocative topic “Smart Grid or Smart Hype?” on Or check out People Power’s five-minute introduction to its open-source Energy Services Platform, which is slick and surprisingly cool for a corporate video.

Networking giant Cisco has a PR channel on YouTube, although most of its smart-grid videos are standard-issue commercial-style productions. (Cisco intern Greg Justice, on the other hand, created a series of bizarrely entertaining — though not necessarily smart-grid-focused — videos using the self-assigned title of “World’s Most Interesting Intern.”)

GE’s Ecomagination channel on YouTube is introduced with an appropriately imaginative, even a bit goofy, interactive video where you can drag your cursor across a fantasy-land panorama to explore different aspects of the smart grid. There’s electromobility (with the prompt, “charge the car”), biogas (“feed the cow”), water reclamation (“clean the water”) and renewables (“make cleaner energy”).

But for really entertaining — in the sense that you’d want to watch more than once, just for fun — it’s hard to find anything beating IBM’s Social Media channel. There are plenty of serious, thought-provoking videos, like the much-watched “Internet of Things.” Beyond those, however, is the wonderful, informative and, yes, funny Mad Science series featuring IBM engineer and all-round-colourful character John Cohn discussing things like the smart grid while also, say, making lightning with a fork and laughing maniacally like the stereotypical mad scientist. (Cohn, by the way, also stars in season two of the Discovery Channel’s reality show, “The Colony.”)

Making smart-grid fun and easy to understand for a general audience, that is, the people who will one day actually benefit from the ability to use smarter, cleaner energy? Now that’s very smart.

Dan Ilett