HAN will be here soon.
Tendril -- one of the leaders in home automation and home networking -- will begin its first large-scale commercial projects in the second half of this year, said CEO Adrian Tuck during a presentation at The Networked Grid, taking place in San Francisco this week.
The projects will each involve around a million homes, said Tuck. He wouldn't name the utilities or companies that have commissioned the projects, what HAN equipment will be inserted into the homes or where on the globe they will take place, but he said that implementation will begin in the second half of the year. He further added that there was more than one mega HAN project in the works.
It's a big moment for the HAN market. HAN vendors have said that controlling dryers, refrigerators and other appliances through home area networks tied to smart meters can cut home power consumption by up to 25 percent, depending on the mix of appliances, information systems and the existence of programs like dynamic pricing. The problem has been the cost. A basic home networking system can cost $300 to $400 to install, and payoff can take years. To make the price more palatable, utilities and demand response providers will likely absorb some of the cost. Utilities also have to develop programs so consumers understand the benefits.
Still, it's been slow going. Tendril has equipped a few thousand homes in North America with HAN equipment but largely in trials. It signed approximately 38 deals in 2010 alone. Lester Larsen, an attendee at the conference, told me that home automation goes way back -- he worked on the concept in the '70s and '80s. Samsung and Mitsubishi succeeded in installing home automation equipment in condominiums in Asia, but in both cases, Samsung and Mitsubishi were also the contractors.
General Electric is an investor in Tendril. Thus, there is a good chance that some of GE's networked and energy-efficient appliances will find their way into these projects.
Other tidbits from the panel:
Greg Guthridge, the global managing director of retail and business services at Accenture, said that Marks & Spencer, the British department store chain, will likely be one of the companies to watch when it comes to studying electricity retailing. The company has begun to sell efficiency programs and solar and effectively serves as a front end for Scottish Southern Energy. The Marks model could work in the U.S. because Marks is technically not functioning as an electricity retailer. Instead, it is promoting services for SSE. It has retail and customer expertise, however, that SSE doesn't.
Guthridge also pointed out that a survey conducted by Accenture indicates that a majority of Americans would allow a utility to share their consumption data with a third-party energy services company (with the consumers' permission), provided that they understood the value proposition. In other words, once consumers understand how demand response and other services can cut their bills, they will give access to their data.