Turned Off: Why Homes Don’t Need Energy Information Displays

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Energy Information Displays (EIDs) fall into three major categories:

1. Dedicated in-home display (IHD) units

2. Web-based dashboards

3. Mobile phone-based applications

Dedicated in-home display units span a huge range of interactivity and style. The simplest EID, with black and white displays, will passively show the consumer how much energy is being used throughout the home. The other side of the spectrum would be a multi-function, full color display with an app-store, a la the Control4 EMS 100. These dedicated display units are generally always on and designed to provide key energy information at a glance. This is supposed to make it easy for consumers to become engaged in tracking, understanding, and managing their home energy use. After some preliminary research, I have formed the hypothesis that these pure-play, energy-management-dedicated devices are irrelevant. The home energy management (HEM) market – while the bubble has not burst, yet – is definitely showing signs of deflation.

Why does a consumer need another screen (EID) in the home? Web-based dashboards are hosted applications accessible over the internet run through a standard web browser. They allow consumers to view detailed and historical energy consumption information and may provide analytical tools and suggestions for reducing energy consumption and expense. Platforms like Microsoft Hohm will also open up new streams of revenue through advertising and other value-added services. If a home has a Wi-Fi connection, a smart meter and sensors on smart appliances and other in-home equipment, all providing energy information to the consumer through a web-portal, what is the need for an EID?

Additionally, mobile phone-based EIDs are home energy management applications for the mobile platform, generally smart phones, such as the iPhone or BlackBerry – and likely, one day, the iPad. They may provide a simplified view of current home energy usage and alerts about energy events, such as power outages, and even control features to remotely adjust certain loads in the home, such as heating or air conditioning. These energy apps will continue to become more sophisticated, complementing the HEM on the PC or TV. This form of energy information consumption and management will serve the end-user better – seamlessly integrating into consumers’ daily routine. Even interactive, network-connected TVs also provide a platform for HEM, and will act as a barrier to the traditional EID market.

So, if all three dominant screens in the home (PC, TV, mobile phone) can connect to the home network, there is seemingly no need for a dedicated in-home energy display unit. Further, hybrid applications via intriguing partnerships for getting into the home through broadband (think ADT and iControl, a networking company) will reshape the HEM market – moving it away from one consumed with energy gadgets and towards an integrated component of the already existing, wirelessly connected, screens in the home.

Article by Jevan Fox, appearing courtesy the Matter Network.

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2 Comments

  1. Nonsense. We have a simple control for hot water that lights up with the day’s usage whenever a hot water tap is open. With a mere glance, we can spot waste. On any other screen, we would never see it and certainly not in real time.

  2. can’t quite follow the justification of this piece – people like David MacKay (Sustainability Without the Hot Air) have identified Home Energy Meters as one of the best ways of enabling consumers to get to grips with managing their consumption. In the UK most users don’t have smart meters and it will be a long time before we do. I’m not sure how the various phone apps etc the author mentions can continually provide consumption data – how do they monitor consumption?

    My monitor provides me with continual real time energy use and is downloadable to my PC – MacKay reckons a lot of people can cut 20% of their domestic energy use using a monitor – The reason I’ve fitted one is to see what help it can be to someone already super energy concious – several colleagues are also fitting them and we will compare results. Finallly, I truly don’t follow the Microsoft / advertising portal line at all – is the thrust this is a good thing or a bad thing – anything that gives microsoft even more opportunities to market their bloat ware is a bad thing in my eyes!

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