had a big booth in the 'connected home' area of this year's Consumer Electronics Show, showing off its home monitoring, security and energy saving features across its range of products. On Tuesday, it made a strategic investment in one of the companies that made that booth possible: Powerhouse Dynamics.
Ingersoll Rand integrates Powerhouse Dynamics’ eMonitor platform, which provides circuit-level energy use visibility for homes and small businesses, in its platform to connect home devices. Currently, the system is in pilots in various cities with Trane HVAC dealers and can be used to monitor and control products including Schlage door locks, Trane HVAC systems lights, and video surveillance, and will eventually incorporate Pella SmartSync windows.
The investment was finalized a few months ago, although it was just announced on Tuesday. Financial terms were not disclosed, but the money will be used to allow "both companies to better achieve their visions for the integrated product line,” Aine Denari, director of strategy for Ingersoll Rand Residential Solutions, said in a statement.
Powerhouse Dynamics is one of the few companies playing both sides of the residential and commercial field. The company was founded as home energy management company for the home, but found that its circuit-level control platform fit well with small businesses, which are vastly underserved in the energy management space compared to their large commercial and industrial brethren.
Last fall, Powerhouse Dynamics completed a series A financing round for $3 million, primarily to boost its small commercial business. The investment from Ingersoll Rand is far smaller, although Powerhouse Dynamics would not disclose a figure. “We think it will be a game-changer for our residential business,” said Martin Flusberg, CEO of Powerhouse Dynamics.
Powerhouse Dynamics hopes the strategic partnership will help scale its residential business, which has grown far more slowly than the small business side. Ingersoll Rand also has a sizeable small business customer base, and eventually the eMonitor platform could be extended to those customers as well. Both the commercial and residential systems share a common platform, so Flusberg said his company could manage scaling both sides of the business at the same time.
Pricing information for the Nexia platform has not been established, but is close to being finalized. There will likely be more than one tier of offerings, with eMonitor’s monitoring capabilities coming standard with Nexia, and upgraded features such as alerts and energy savings tips coming at an additional cost.
Time will tell if customers are interested in Nexia, but Flusberg said dealers were excited about the offering in pilots. Ingersoll Rand will eventually train its entire 8,000-plus dealer network on Nexia with eMonitor capabilities.
In the meantime, the small commercial market continues to chug along, he said. Several “blue chip” companies, primarily restaurant chains, are using the software, with more detailed announcements coming down the road, he said.
Of course, both sides of the business face stiff competition, with telecoms, security companies and big-box stores all putting home control and energy products into the market. In the past year, big partnerships have been key for expansion. EcoFactor announced a partnership with Comcast; EnergyHub is working with WeatherBug and Radio Thermostat of America; AlertMe is powering Lowe’s Iris platform, and Opower works with Home Depot.
There is no one path to market right now, but with large consumer companies -- and not utilities -- building product offerings, 2012 will continue to be the year that the little guys forge alliances to stay in the game.