Glendale Water & Power officials are looking to expand a popular pilot program featuring a digital picture frame that displays energy use and costs in near real-time from about 70 testers to 500.

The proposed jump was prompted by the positive feedback the utility has received from current users, many of whom have been testing the product since 2011. There's also been a high demand from other customers who also want to try the device.

"It's really something special," said Craig Kuennen, the utility's business transformation and marketing administrator, during a Glendale Water & Power Commission on Monday.

The frame can display personal pictures, advertisements from the city and utility costs in near real-time. If someone turns on a light switch, the cost of that extra energy is displayed on the frame in seconds.

The frame was the brain-child of Burbank-based Ceiva, which has been producing digital picture frames for nearly a decade. Ceiva reconfigured the wireless technology it uses to send photos from phones or computers to digital frames to connect with energy data.

The new batch of frames would have some advanced features, including a mobile application that allows users to adjust their thermostat from their mobile phones. Those in the pilot program will be asked to test the new features so Glendale Water & Power and Ceiva can work out any kinks.

The goal is to iron out problems so that the utility can eventually offer the frames to any interested customer.

Kuennen said he's received several inquiries from other utilities both in the United States and abroad about the digital frames.

"Whoever we mention it to is really interested," Kuennen said.

Kuennen briefly spoke to the Glendale Water & Power Commission about the pilot plan, but he plans to present the idea — and a $250,000 budget —- to the City Council in September for official approval. The pilot project is expected to last a year.

The roughly 70 users already testing the device would be included in the new pilot program and the remaining spots would be filled by interested customers on a first-come, first-served basis.

For more information about the pilot program's expansion, call (818) 548-3300.

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Follow Brittany Levine on Google+ and on Twitter: @brittanylevine.

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