Everyone Gets In the Game

Last year, we closed out 2011 by mentioning the entrance of big-box stores after big software firms exited the home energy management space.

The news about big-box stores making plays in the energy space increased, but so did press releases claiming that everyone else is getting into the game, including security firms, cable providers and equipment makers, like Ingersoll Rand.

A few years ago, insiders questioned whether the utilities might just be left holding the wires while other companies owned the relationship with a customer inside of the home. That could happen, but many utilities have expressed interest in handing off that relationship.

It’s already being tested in some places, like San Diego Gas & Electric, which is leveraging thermostats in their territory on Alarm.com or EnergyHub’s platform for a peak time rebate program. Earth Networks (owner of WeatherBug) is also working with CenterPoint in Texas in a similar program.

The appeal for big-box stores is the synergy of buying a GE refrigerator and a Nucleus home energy manager all at the same time, as Sears wants to do. There are also different approaches. Lowe’s has its own platform for a connected home, Iris, while Best Buy has concept stores in three large cities to test the waters on connected home offerings. Home Depot is working with Opower to offer tailored coupons.

Comcast announced it was picking up EcoFactor to roll into its Xfinity home offering, although it won’t be available to customers until 2013. Verizon also announced connected home services late last year.  

The competition to make the connected home a reality should continue in 2013, with more software startups snagging deals with the big guys. But the Consumer Electronics Show has been promising the home of the future for decades.

Utilities will start pilots to integrate their energy efficiency and demand response programs with third parties, especially as smart meters are deployed and turned on. Big-box stores and telco providers have the huge ad budgets that could help to sell connected home services -- of which energy will play one part -- in a way that was never possible when just the utilities were in the game.

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Tags: energy management, han, home area network, home energy management