AT&T, Ford Dip Toe In Home Energy Management Market

Appliances are getting smarter. Thermostats are getting smarter. Thanks to smart meters, utilities are getting smarter. It only makes sense to connect all of these intelligent devices, combining their power so that home energy consumption can also become smarter. We’ve seen several of these home energy management systems launch in the past few years. Some found their niche markets while others, like the GE Nucleus, didn’t make it much further.

Now, in the space of a few days, we’ve heard that Ford, Eaton, SunPower and Whirlpool are teaming up to offer “MyEnergi Lifestyle” to showcase how the combination of renewable energy generation with “time-flexible” loads optimizes energy consumption across a plug-in vehicle and home appliances. Not to be left behind, AT&T plans to debut “Digital Life“, a wireless-based home security and appliance automation service, in March. The question is, what will set these new offerings apart from what’s already available, and will they be able to succeed where others have failed?

MyEnergi, home energy management, GE, Ford, SunPower, AT&T

Image via Ford

At pointed out in this EarthTechling interview with GE’s Mike Beyerle, public disinterest, slow roll-out of smart meters and associated devices that would have made the Nucleus work, combined for a nearly silent two years for the product line. But we’ve come a long way since 2010, and doubtless AT&T, Ford, and their partners feel that they’ve learned enough from GE’s mistakes to avoid their fate. Many utilities have switched to smart meters in the interim, solar is growing faster than ever before, and plug-in cars are no longer the anomaly they were just a few years ago.

MyEnergi Lifestyle has particular potential because a) it’s a collaboration, which taps into strong companies already leading their industries, and b) it revolves around solar power, so it’s not just about using less energy, it’s about using cleaner, cheaper energy. The system attempts to show consumers how to reduce energy consumption by training appliances to use less energy during peak periods. Test results predict a 60 percent reduction in energy costs and more than 9,000 kg of CO2 (55 percent reduction) saved from a single home. If every home in the U.S. were to implement these energy-saving technologies, it would be the equivalent of taking all the homes in California, New York and Texas off the power grid (32 million homes). The downside is that it’s heavily reliant on consumer adoption of lots of appliances that aren’t going to be cheap.

AT&T is coming at the home energy management game from a different angle: our obsession with controlling everything from our smartphones. We’ve seen integrated home security offerings from Comcast and ADT, but AT&T’s Digital Life will be unique because it equips customers with control of their homes from a smartphone, tablet or PC – regardless of wireless carrier or broadband provider. Digital Life subscribers will be able to turn down the thermostat at home without leaving the office, catch live video of kids and pets with your smartphone, or lock the back door from the other side of town. Also, the service will be divided into packages so you can buy the protection you want, and leave what you don’t.

What do you think? Do these new offerings have a better chance than those that have come before? Do either of them pique your interest? Share your thoughts in a comment.

Beth Buczynski is a freelancer writer and editor currently living in the Rocky Mountain West. Her articles appear on Care2, Ecosalon and Inhabitat, just to name a few. So far, Beth has lived in or near three major U.S. mountain ranges, and is passionate about protecting the important ecosystems they represent. Follow Beth on Twitter as @ecosphericblog