iControl

wants to seed the home energy management market by way of home security.

The Palo Alto, Calif.-based startup launched its ConnectedLife Energy Management product on Tuesday. Homeowners will first see it not as a utility offering, but as part of home security systems from ADT and General Electric, CEO Paul Dawes said.

More partners are to come, both in home security and with home broadband providers, Dawes said, though he wouldn't name names. Given that iControl's most recent investors include Comcast, ADT, GE Security and Cisco, one might make some predictions (see iControl Gets $23M for Home Security, Home Energy Management).

Also to come are utility pilot projects. The company's vice president of energy products, Letha McLaren, is a veteran of smart meter heavyweight Landis+Gyr. iControl has a utility-specific offering it hopes to bring to market for about $50 per house, Dawes said.

Until then, iControl wants to bundle energy management – smart thermostats, smart appliances, smart plugs and the like, along with an interface to control them – with the IP-enabled motion sensors, door locks, security cameras and lighting systems that its software manages on behalf of its home security partners.

This "broadband home management" world also includes networking medical devices and systems, say, for a sick relative who needs constant monitoring. iControl works with devices that run over WiFi, Z-Wave, HomePlug and proprietary home security wireless protocols from GE and Honeywell, Dawes said.

Of course, iControl also has a separate utility offering, made to talk to smart meters via ZigBee, he said. But the markets are completely different, he said.

Home security systems can essentially toss in energy management as a fraction of the $25 to $35 monthly fee charged to homeowners for security or home monitoring systems, he said. That's because they typically involve multi-year contracts to ensure paying back the equipment installation costs of $99, $199, $299 and up, he said.

But utilities need public regulators to approve rate hikes to cover the capital costs of deploying these systems, and those regulators tend to want to see costs spread fairly between those who pay – everyone – and those who benefit, which are people who can afford to install a home energy management system. That might make it politically difficult to justify subsidizing systems that run into triple-digit prices, he said (see $48: A Threshold Price for In-Home Energy Management?).

The price barrier is elastic. Control4, which also sells broader home automation systems for about $200 and up and up, has priced its utility-specific system at about $100 a home, and British startup AlertMe is asking £69 ($114) per home. Both have utility contracts (see Control4 Seeks Utility Partnership in TX and Google, British Gas Help AlertMe Launch Home Energy Control).

iControl, on the other hand, is targeting $50 for a core system, or $75 with, say, a $25 smart thermostat, Dawes said. That's about half the price of most networkable thermostats now available today, but one that one of iControl's hardware partner plans to announce in the coming months, he said.

Just how much utilities are willing to spend is on the minds of startups such as Tendril, Control4, AlertMe, OpenPeak, EnergyHub, Onzo, and dozens more providing the technology to link home energy management networks with utilities (see Green Light post and stories here, here, here and here).

Microsoft and Google have home energy management platforms as well (see stories here and here). Others have been acquired by bigger smart grid startups seeking to round out their portfolios (see stories here and here).

But all these home energy control systems are just being tested right now, and it could be years before utilities begin deploying them en masse – if indeed that's what utilities want to do. Some would prefer that homeowners take the lead (see Utilities Mull Price Points, Policies for Home Energy Management).