Consumer energy management applications an emerging trend


Las Vegas, NV, U.S.A. — (METERING.COM) — January 11, 2010 – The emergence of consumer energy management applications is setting a trend for 2010, with a growing number of “apps” for iPhones and other smart phones and other systems for home use.

At the international Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vega last week, several companies launched new home energy management products.

IP-based home control and entertainment systems provider Control4 announced new smart home apps for BlackBerry and Droid users, building on the Mobile Navigator for the iPhone/iPod Touch, which was introduced last year. These apps allow users to control lighting, temperature, security, music and video over a home Wi-Fi network with their BlackBerry or Android device.

With the release of Control4 O/S 2.0 in early 2010, Mobile Navigator will also be packaged with an upgraded Control4 4Sight remote monitoring subscription to enable full home control directly over the 3G network. 4Sight includes email notifications for homeowners alerting them to events of interest (e.g. garage door left open, attempted access with invalid code on a Kwikset ZigBee deadbolt, etc.) along with full home control of lighting, thermostat, and other devices over the internet.

New British company PassivEnergy showcased its home energy management system, set to be available from March 2010. PassivEnergy connects via sensors to heating, hot water and electrical appliances, and monitors activity via an individual online account to make the most efficient use of energy possible, for example only using services such as hot water when required.

California consumer electronics company SilverPAC unveiled, among other new products, the SilverSTAT 7 smart energy thermostat, which combines a seven-day programmable thermostat with an in-home display for monitoring and managing energy consumption. With built-in Wi-Fi connectivity as well as Z-Wave Home Automation interface and ZigBee protocol, the SilverSTAT 7 can communicate with a home network to control lighting and household appliances, while Windows technology provides access to e-mail, stock prices, real time weather forecasting, billing and prices schedules for energy providers, and more. The SilverSTAT 7 will ship in Q2 2010.

Direct Energy, Whirlpool Corporation, Best Buy, Lennox, and OpenPeak launched a “Home Energy Manager” prototype, with the potential based on preliminary data to save consumers up to 25 percent on their energy bills. The HEM, running on OpenPeak’s OpenFrame device, is a compact, touch screen communications center with an intuitive, graphic user interface, which integrates seamlessly with home appliances such as dishwashers, washers and dryers, water heaters, thermostats and heating and air conditioning units. Future plans for the prototype include a 12-month pilot in consumers’ homes in Houston later this year to assess its real word impacts on consumer behavior and energy saving, and how the solution can be improved before it goes to market.

Noteworthy too was the announcement from OpenPeak that its OpenFrame® 7E VoIP multimedia home energy management and communications platform had achieved ZigBee Smart Energy certification. The device, with a simple display of real time energy usage and pricing as well as a centralized interface for communication with other in-home devices, is intended to deliver a user-friendly multimedia experience for complete energy consumption management and VoIP communications within the home.

The event also saw some announcements on standards. System-on-chip (SoC) solution provider Sigma Designs announced the availability of the Z-Wave to ZigBee bridge reference design, which enables integration of ZigBee Smart Energy Profile connected smart meters with the Z-Wave home area network (HAN). Mapping demand response load control and energy rate messages to Z-Wave specific functionalities and devices, the bridge reference design will enable utilities and consumers to take advantage of the more than 350 Z-Wave home control products that are now widely available.

The first Z-Wave smart grid home controller(TM) incorporating the bridge reference design, and also allowing other interconnectivity options such as Wi-Fi and FlexNet, was presented by energy saving technology developer BuLogics, Inc.

Sigma Designs also announced a partnership with 802.11n chipset supplier Ralink Technology Corporation developing 802.11n Wi-Fi-enabled reference designs for home electronics connectivity.

The HomePlug® Powerline Alliance also announced the expected finalization of the HomePlug “Green PHY” specification, a low power, cost optimized power line networking specification targeting smart grid applications such as HVAC, smart meters, home appliances and plug-in electric hybrid vehicles, in the first quarter of 2010 (see IEEE draft BPL smart grid standard now available).