People have been talking about and witnessing acquisitions in the smart grid space since 2008 and current events just keep building on the trend.
Today, Honeywell, one of the leaders in building management, bought Akuacom, which provides demand response services to independent service providers and building owners.
It's an interesting combination. Honeywell and Johnson Controls are the dominant names in building management. Chances are you're in a building right now controlled by their systems. Many, however, complain that traditional building management systems are too expensive and don't provide dynamic controls. Air conditioners might go on on cold days, for instance, or the heater might run at the same time as the air conditioner because of contradictory commands plugged into the system by the building owners, janitors or tenants. Most of these systems also don't control lights, which consume about 24 percent of the energy in commercial buildings.
As a result, startups such as Adura Technologies, which controls lights, and BuildingIQ (HVAC) have sprung up to fill in the niche. (Disclosure: I'll be talking with executives on building management at The Networked Grid May 18 and 19 in Palm Springs.) EnerNoc, the demand response specialist, last year bought a building management company and is now moving into that market.
Akuacom's technology is based around the Open Automated Demand Response (OpenADR) protocol, which effectively makes it easier to get into demand response programs.
With Akuacom, Honeywell can now tie its management systems, which are continually being modernized, to demand response. Air conditioner settings, ideally, will float up and down with power pricing. Imagine adding a weather feed: if a hot afternoon is expected, the building can be pre-cooled with cheap power before 1 a.m and then set to coast during the peak power hours from 2:00 to 6:00. Utilities can avoid a brown-out, building owners and tenants will see lower power bills, and officer workers won't notice the difference.
An acquisition of a lighting control or building management control company may soon follow. Lighting controls actually may be next. Not many acquisitions have taken place in this market, yet it's growing, and LightFair, the industry confab, takes place next week.
Expect to hear a lot from Honeywell over the next few years. (We picked them as one of our Top Ten Green Giants recently.) The company works extensively on a variety of industrial and power projects. It is also minting executives. Jack Bolick, the CEO of Adura, came out of Honeywell. So did Robert Gillette, the CEO of First Solar. These guys have packed speed dials.