Energy Management Solutions in the Smart Home - Insights from Zen Ecosystems

by Parks Associates | Jun. 3, 2019

Prior to Parks Associates’ 23rd-annual CONNECTIONS: The Premier Connected Home Conference, James McPhail, CEO, Zen Ecosystems spoke with the firm’s analyst team to his thoughts on energy management solutions in the smart home.

James participated on the Energy Management Solutions: Smart Home Crossover panel on Wednesday, May 22, at 10:15 AM. Panelists who joined him on this session included:

Justin Berghoff, Director, Business Development & Product Management, Residential, Leviton Manufacturing Co., Inc.
Joseph Carangelo, Executive Director, Strategy and Innovation, Baker Electric Home Energy
Mel Fox, Product Owner, Nexia Home, Residential HVAC & Supply, Ingersoll Rand
Felicite Moorman, CEO, STRATIS IoT

Q: As the smart home experience expands outside the home, how will the role of the car evolve as part of the smart home ecosystem?  

A: As EV’s become more prevalent, their value to the grid will continue to grow.  As we see here in California, we have done a great job of driving down our electricity demands through the traditional mid-day peak hours with the mass adoption of solar.  However, this has introduced a new challenge, resulting in what we now know as the duck-curve, where our peak demands now occur later in the afternoon as solar winds down.  While EV’s can certainly add to this new peak by charging as soon as people get home and plug those vehicles in, they can just as easily be a tool to alleviate the late-day peaks.  Though the typical EV charger that comes with an EV isn’t necessarily, there are after-market EV chargers, and now even smart adapters that can regulate the amount of load an EV draws, and when it charges.  With smarts like these, we can not only shift the EV charging to later in the night, but can also use EV’s as battery resources to feed energy back into the home/grid as solar loads drop off. 

Q: With smart home adoption flattening in 2018, what must the industry do to reach new buyers? 

A: We need to add more value other than just the convenience of a remote control via an app. We must take the gigs of data we’re all collecting and start to make it more digestible for all consumers, not just the early adopters.  It’s up to us, as an industry, to make better use of the data, and to drive true user engagement through more intuitive applications that yield financial and environmental results, rather than being just another gadget.

Q: What innovations have you seen that will address the existing needs of the elderly to enable independent living in the smart home?

A: Aging in place is extremely important.  Not just for the comfort and convenience of those who would rather be in their own home rather than assisted living, but for the safety of those with physical limitations.  With the development of fall detection, and the use of something as simple as a motion detector, the smart home is now capable of producing alerts based on changes in patterns/behavior.  Having a loved one who suffered a fall last year, I can definitely say that the life-alerts necklaces aren’t enough.  Having multiple fail-safes/data-points in the home is absolutely crucial when it comes to aging in place.

Q: What new energy management scenarios are emerging from industry partnerships and crossover use cases?

A: This aspect of the market is getting really exciting, especially the increasing opportunity for best-in-class services/platforms/products to align their strengths.  When it comes to Energy management the goal is simple – use less energy, especially when it’s expensive.  This is even more important in markets like here in California, where all customers, not just commercial, but now even residential, are being defaulted into Time of Use pricing.  This essentially forces consumers to pay attention to energy management by way of stick rather than carrot.  This makes it really easy for service/product provider alignment to drive significant value.  For Example, it gives us the opportunity to work closely with Stratis to roll out our thermostats, connected to their platform, to enable demand response and demand management for their MDU customers, potentially even using the likes of LORA.  Along those same lines, we get to work with companies like Inspire to provide them with a WiFi thermostat that connects directly to their Home Energy Management app, providing a seamless consumer experience using renewable energy.  Or the way we get to work with the largest MSO’s like Comcast, Cox, Rogers, Telstra, where they simply connect our ZigBee thermostats to their iControl platforms to provide energy efficiency alongside home security and entertainment services.   At the end of the day, energy management is not just a hot topic, it’s a necessity that has significant impacts to our entire planet.

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