Posted by : Allison Eckelkamp | On : October 20, 2011

It’s not the type of cloud that may require you to run the windshield wipers.

Rather, IBM has taken its smarter planet philosophy on the road and is working with Swiss utility EKZ to provide a new cloud-based app that connects the driver, the utility, the electric vehicle (EV), and the EV charging station through a smartphone (or other web-based device) application. The ultimate consumer benefits — to help ease range anxiety, ensure the user is always “topped off,” help drivers get the lowest fuel rate, and provide environmentally focused consumers with the option to choose renewable power as their fuel source.

The application provides the driver with information and control from virtually anywhere. Connected to an IBM cloud service, the app can retrieve information from the car, which sends data to the cloud via a “phonebook-sized” gadget within the vehicle. This gadget communicates a variety of stats , including fuel level (or power level), available range, vehicle location, and charging schedule. The cloud-based application can also connect to the utility to retrieve real-time cost data and tell drivers when it’s most economical to “fill up.”

According to IBM’s press release, the app “can be programmed to start battery charging at a future point in time, for example when rates are lowest or when a trip is planned.”

Leveraging cleaner energy, EKZ is programming these technologies to charge the vehicle when renewable energy is strongest. According to IBM, the app enables EV owners to “delegate the responsibility of recharging the battery to the utility provider, which can schedule charges based on the availability of renewable resources, such as sun and wind, allowing the utility to improve load balancing and prevent outages.”

Load balancing and outage prevention will be the key benefit to utilities. If EVs really take off (and some data show that this could take a while), utilities will need to understand how to manage this huge drain on the grid while still ensuring reliable, steady power to the rest of its customers. Certainly, time-of-use rates that incent “off-peak” charging could help balance the load, but understanding the actual  habits of drivers — with real-time data provided by cloud-based applications like the one IBM is developing — could prove to be even more valuable.

Here’s a video published on YouTube by IBM Research – Zurich that explains the pilot in more depth:


Image courtesy of IBM.




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.