It Takes a Village: Creating the energy-optimized smart home

In a previous blog post on home energy management, CTG covered new devices being introduced by Google, Amazon, and Apple. Since then, Amazon announced that it had sold “millions” of Alexa devices in 2016, and that the Echo family of products had seen a 9x increase in sales this holiday season over last. Google has not made any announcements regarding sales, but has just announced new partnerships for Google Home, including Hyundai for connected car services and Sony for high-end LCD TVs. Google has also rolled out Actions, its analog to Amazon’s Alexa API, opening up Home as a platform for developers, which will likely accelerate the pace of Home’s capabilities.

The rapid momentum these devices have gained in the marketplace bodes well for the growth of the connected home. However, the path from the connected home to the energy-optimized home is not entirely clear. Component devices and home energy management solutions have gained some traction, most notably with smart thermostats such as Nest and ecobee. In addition, companies such as Tendril are developing innovative software solutions to optimize home cooling within the context of the broader electric grid, with their Orchestrated Energy product setting HVAC schedules based on day-ahead pricing.

Residential energy optimization will take more than just the devices, and utilities and regulatory bodies have also taken steps toward enabling the energy-optimized connected home. California has a variety of ongoing initiatives in the smart home space. We had previously noted Nest’s 50 MW demand response deal with Southern California Edison, which is expected to help prevent any blackouts that Aliso Canyon may cause. The state has also mandated that utilities develop educational outreach programs for customers to learn about energy management technologies with its enactment of AB 793. New York is another noteworthy state that has begun piloting residential energy programs, such as National Grid’s Clifton Park program for upgraded residential meters.

Thus, while many of the components of the smart, connected, energy-optimized home are taking shape, the optimization of residential energy use will require all of these various components to work together in harmony. To the extent that smart speakers can provide a gateway to connected home devices, they are an ongoing development to watch, but other pieces of the puzzle will also need to develop in order to fully optimize residential energy.