Hooking up a single household with wirelessly connected light bulbs, thermostats, door locks, security cameras and the like isn’t particularly challenging from a technical perspective. After all, literally hundreds of startups and big companies are demonstrating projects like these today, all over the world.
But building a cloud-based platform that can deliver commercial-grade wireless services to millions of homes scattered across regions or entire countries is a different matter. That’s where the ability to handle tons of data, prioritize network availability, and present it all to individual homeowners at the speed and accuracy they’re accustomed to from all their smartphone apps, could make or break a business.
GreenWave Reality wants to provide that kind of scalable platform to the networked home market. Since its 2008 founding, the Irvine, Calif.-based startup has been quietly building up a roster of utility pilot projects in Denmark, Sweden, Australia and New Zealand, using its Home2Cloud platform to link third-party devices from smart meters and energy management consoles to smart thermostats and IP-addressable LED light bulbs.
On Thursday, GreenWave announced the close of a $19 million Series B funding round to push into more connected home markets. New investor The Westly Group joined previous investor Craton Equity Partners in the round, which brings GreenWave’s total investment to $31 million.
GreenWave doesn’t make its own home hardware and devices. Instead, it concentrates on the complex task of networking those devices in the home, then connecting them via the internet to a cloud-based platform that can manage and control them all on behalf of the companies that are providing the underlying service. Competitors on this front include the likes of iControl, Digi International and Candi Controls, to name a few.
Playing this middleman role requires managing a ton of disparate communications protocols in a constant back-and-forth flow of data, GreenWave CEO Greg Memo said in an interview this week. The startup has built a cloud platform based on a NoSQL architecture to handle the big-data part of the equation, first of all to make sure it “won’t crash when millions of people are connected to it,” he said.
Beyond that, proper data management architectures can allow more sophisticated applications, he said, such as turning down power usage when motion sensors indicate nobody’s home, turning it back up when a homeowner’s cellphone GPS indicates he or she is coming home from work, or adjusting automatic lighting presets based on the seasons and Daylight Savings Time changes.
At the on-premise networking side of the equation, GreenWave notes its self-healing, traffic prioritization and other such “quality of service” capabilities. Memo and GreenWave CTO Martin Manniche come from the Cisco consumer business unit that includes Linksys routers, so they're familiar with that challenge, and the startup also has executives who came from 4Home, a home networking startup bought by Motorola that's now playing a role in Verizon's home monitoring business.
As for the scale of business GreenWave is tackling, Memo said that the startup is “now in a million homes with our core platform,” providing the behind-the-scenes management of networked-home services -- though he wouldn’t name the partner, or partners, involved.
“You can think of us as an internet-of-things infrastructure player, or a smart home infrastructure player,” he said. “We view applications as services on top of the platform. Energy services are an important application for us. So is smart lighting, and so are other lifestyle-type applications.”
That’s in keeping with the broader market trends in networked homes, where energy-specific products and services haven’t found traction on their own, but are being rolled out as part of broader offerings that include home security and entertainment. Examples include Alarm.com’s acquisition of EnergyHub, Comcast’s Xfinity Home service’s partnership with startup EcoFactor, and Lowe’s partnership with U.K.-based startup AlertMe, to name a few.
In the U.S., home automation providers range from the broadband-enabled home monitoring services on offer from Lowe’s, Comcast, AT&T and Verizon, to higher-end systems like those from Control4, which held a successful IPO this summer after publicly ditching its energy monitoring efforts to concentrate on home security, comfort and entertainment applications.
In GreenWave’s case, its utility partners are looking at energy monitoring and control as gateways to broader home connectivity offerings, Memo said. Take the example of E.ON, the Europe-spanning utility that unveiled a U.K. smart home pilot with GreenWave late last year.
In many of Europe’s deregulated energy markets, retail electricity and natural gas providers “are increasingly service providers,” he said. “Many times, they even own service installation, and even home monitoring type companies -- because they’re deregulated, and have a need to differentiate their products.”
GreenWave is now a platform partner for E.ON’s smart-meter-connected home monitoring devices on sale in various markets, Memo said. The companies announced last year that “(s)olar PV, smart appliances, electric vehicles and connected lighting are also being explored” as future devices and systems to be integrated into the platform.
Similar partnerships with Seas-NVE in Denmark, Nuon in the Netherlands, and Fortum in Sweden are making power monitors and networked lighting available for control over GreenWave’s platform. In New Zealand, GreenWave partner Genesis Energy, a retail energy company in a similarly deregulated market, is aimed at branching from energy management to “connected lighting, home monitoring and potentially other exciting future services.”
We’re seeing this same divergent set of “exciting future services” being linked up by others in the networked residential space, as well. U.S. home security company Vivint, which was acquired for $2 billion by private equity form Blackstone Group earlier this year, has been making a big move into home solar systems and energy management offerings.