As 2012 came to a close, Tendril emerged from a restructuring as a smaller startup that was seeking partnerships with other companies serious about home energy management, and not those just looking to try it out.
Tendril’s latest partner, Hitachi, certainly fits the bill. Tendril announced this week that its firmware will be integrated into Hitachi’s SuperJ Applications Ecosystem, which operates on the OSGi framework, allowing for multiple types of firmware to run on the same device.
“We wanted Tendril firmware running on as many physical gateways as possible,” said Chris Black, chief operating officer at Tendril. “OSGi is this modular framework that allows other gateways to run within it.”
As part of Tendril’s restructuring, it moved away from hardware in the past year and instead is focusing on software. By having its firmware run on other companies’ set-top boxes or routers allows for it to reach a wider audience faster.
Hitachi had been looking for an energy module to add to its SuperJ ecosystem, said Black. Hitachi does not make the set top boxes, but is instead partnering with device manufacturers to have its system run on their hardware. Once set-top boxes are upgraded, customers will have access to Tendril’s Energize energy platform.
There is one important step from partnership to wide customer adoption, however. Although the technology could be made available over the air, service providers would need to offer the service as part of a suite of connected home services.
Every large service provider is looking for opportunities to expand into connected home offerings. Comcast has its Xfinity service and both AT&T and Verizon have services they are testing, including everything from security, energy management and controls.
“For energy providers, which comprise most of Tendril’s customer base, the ability to engage customers in energy management programs via SuperJ-enabled gateways that are already in the home is an important new competitive advantage,” Adrian Tuck, CEO of Tendril said in a statement. “It provides an easy and innovative way to improve energy management and customer satisfaction without the cost of special-purpose gateways and other hardware devices.”
When and if there are deals, customers would have access to Tendril’s platform to monitor energy use and receive energy efficiency tips. All of the gateways or set-top boxes will also have a ZigBee radio, so it could connect to smart plugs, two-way thermostats or smart appliances, if the customer wanted more functionality.
“It’s harder and harder to get another device in the home,” Black said of trying to add a separate gateway just for energy management. “If you can get that same connectivity running on one of those boxes, the opportunity to make the Tendril connectivity more pervasive is much more realistic.”
The offering will initially be made to the U.S. market. Hitachi is not the only company looking to marry its consumer products with energy-related services. Toshiba noted that one of its reasons for buying the Swiss smart metering giant Landis+Gyr is to get into the U.S. smart home market. Panasonic is partnered with Itron (NASDAQ:ITRI) in the Japanese market.
At this time, Hitachi and Tendril did not have any details about which service providers they could be working with, but Black expected announcements within the year.