Energy Consumers: Getting their Head in the Clouds

Posted by : Allison Eckelkamp | On : October 14, 2011

You’ve probably seen the Chevrolet commercial in which a man calls his wife, who is boarding an airplane, and asks, “Would you mind doing it again?” From an app on her smart phone, she starts her car, generating an “ooooh, sweet” response from her husband’s friend.

This is the power of the “cloud.” And the technology exists today for us to remotely manage several devices or systems in our homes (or driveway) – whether it’s security and lighting systems, or even the settings on appliances and other energy-consuming devices. Home energy management (HEM) will certainly be an emerging trend for cloud-based services and systems going forward

In fact, a new report from ON World released this week predicts that “sensor network chipset shipments will approach 100 million worldwide in 2015, enabling nearly $6 billion in cloud services for energy and home service providers.”

Directly quoted from ON World press release, some interesting findings include:

  • Cloud services for smart home applications will increase by a 103% compound annual growth rate between 2010 and 2015.
  • ON World’s survey with over 500 consumers found that 4 out of 5 are “interested” or “very interested” in applications such as security, safety, lighting and energy management.  

  • 29% are willing to spend $10 or more per month for a Smart Home cloud service.

Cost is a key factor. While many consumers might be reticent to spend hundreds of dollars for devices that manage only energy consumption, the opportunity to piggyback HEM functionality onto an existing system – like a security system – might be more appealing.

In fact, this is already happening. In August, a security company called Vivint announced a deal with Tendril to include energy management features in its existing security offering. CNET reported that for “$57.99 per month–an additional $8 a month over the security service–a customer gets a wireless thermostat, a smart plug to control lights or small appliances, and a pack of compact fluorescent bulbs.”

Because the Vivint system is connected to the cloud, a homeowner could actually alter a thermostat setting or remotely control appliances that are connected to the system from the web or a smart phone.

None of this requires a smart meter or an understanding of smart grid. However, as this functionality becomes readily available, and as more consumers get smart meters and real-time energy data, cloud-based energy-management systems could provide even more lifestyle benefits.

“Demand for energy solutions has invigorated the Smart Home market and resulted in cloud based innovations that make Smart Home services accessible for the average household,” says Mareca Hatler, ON World’s research director, in this week’s press release.  “Built on an IP based infrastructure, these Smart Home platforms present nearly unlimited services opportunities as well as the potential for disruption from new offerings that promise to deliver Smart Home solutions at even lower costs.”

The opportunities are endless. “Smart,” communications-enabled appliances and electronics are being piloted today, meaning the potential for remotely controlling devices through the cloud, whether it’s for energy conservation or sheer convenience, is almost unlimited.

Can’t you just picture the TV commercial now? A woman standing in the living room calls her husband, who’s on the golf course. “Honey, do it again.” He takes out his iPhone and turns off their energy-guzzling television.

How’d he do it? Through the cloud, of course.



Image courtesy of stock.xchng:  http://www.sxc.hu/photo/71997.