I recently received a comment on the post Smart, Connected Home = Green? asking “in which sector do you estimate there are the greatest points of value from the connected home for the end users: smart grids, consumer appliances, [or] security?” And the comment appears to have energy efficiency foremost in mind.
Great question. And if I had a definite answer, I could make a lot of money.
But the question got me thinking. Really thinking. And reviewing a whole bunch of stuff that I’ve written for this web site and others. And do you know what? I still don’t have a clear answer.
So let’s very briefly review the contestants:
I’ve stated before that the smart grid, at least in the United States, should be the biggest driver for home energy management, as varied Time of Use rates and other dynamic pricing options should give people incentives to “load shift” big electrical loads like dishwasher and clothes washer cycles to less expensive times. However, the glacial pace of smart grid rollouts by the utilities, many of which are still mired in trial and pilot programs, puts a damper on such optimism. I think it will happen, but likelier in the second half of the decade, and who knows what will big changes will occur by then.
They’re the big energy users in a home, and connecting and controlling them—with or without a smart grid—can bring a lot of value to consumers. We’re already seeing this with systems by the service providersADT, Comcast, Verizon, Vivint and others that allow users to control their thermostats(and therefore their heating and AC) from their smartphones. Mobile connectivityadds convenience and even makes it somewhat fun. Appliance manufacturers are readying “smart” appliances that can connect to smart grid services—and they’re looking at all sorts of applications like keeping an inventory of your foods in the fridge and expiration dates to make shopping easier. But here’s a rub: People don’t buy new appliances all that often. So this, too, will take a while to take hold.
Here’s where the service providers like ADT, Comcast et al have it right. They know people want home security and like the idea of mobile connectivity, so that’s what they sell their systems as—while including some basic home automation and energy management (lights and thermostats), though one Verizon package also offers energy monitoring. Security may have the biggest value in the connected home to consumers—at least in perception. And it is being used to sell that connectivity, automation and energy management.
But what I think could be the biggest drivers—and ultimately the biggest value to people in connected homes are …