CWRU Students Power Up Energy-Tracking App

Homeowners can enhance household budgets while reducing environmental impact, thanks to an electricity-tracking app developed by Case Western Reserve University students Robert Karam and Bryan Marty.

The duo, along with Cleveland Institute of Art graduate Patty Ni, created Budget It Yourself, or BIY, an award-winning app that parses energy data provided by power companies and converts it so anyone with an Android smartphone can budget an electric bill.

energy saving app

The young app creators envision a future where people use BIY to save electricity on the go.

To use the app, a customer’s energy provider must have a “Green Button” on its website. This graphic signals that energy usage information can be downloaded. Two of California’s largest utility companies have implemented Green Button, and other companies across the country have committed to adding the feature to their sites, although no Ohio utilities currently carry the option.

“There’s a basic graph that tracks usage, and a simpler version with a white ‘budget bulb,’” says Karam. The 22-year-old from Dublin, Ohio, earned his bachelor’s degree from Case Western Reserve in 2012 and is now working on a PhD in computer engineering at the university. He created the interface that displays the digital bulb, which slowly dissipates as energy is used daily.

Karam’s partner Marty, 23, built the database and website where users can get the app. Marty, a Wooster, Ohio, native, plans to graduate in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering and a master’s degree in computer science.

The project took second place in the student division of the U.S. Department of Energy’s “Apps for Energy” challenge, earning the team an invite to Washington, D.C., in October to show their product to then-Energy Secretary Steven Chu as well as industry and environmental officials.

Karam doesn’t expect the app to take off locally until Ohio’s utility companies make real-time energy data available—a process he expects will take a couple of years.

Still, the young app creators envision a future where people use BIY to save electricity on the go.

“Just like you make a budget for your money,” he says, “you’ll be making an energy budget,” he says.