Many electric utilities around the world, in particular in the United States, have tested the home automation waters in the past by performing innumerable field trials. In the past 10 years many technologies and products have been used by these utilities to determine if there is a viable business for providing a utility connection to the home for performing Demand Side Management (DSM).
It is safe to say that many, if not all of these utility trials have gone nowhere, perhaps due to inappropriate use of technologies, lack of customer interest, or simply, the inability of the utilities to justify investments in this market. Whatever the reasons may be, it is clear that there has been a definite lack of a compelling story â€“ a real reason for both utilities and consumers to truly want to have a home automation system that happens to also tap into the utility company’s back-end systems.
The Guiding Light
Enel, the largest publicly traded electric utility in the world, is planning on wiring up 27 million homes in Italy over the next three years for not only remote meter reading but also to provide value-added services to the homeowners. They have selected the LonWorksÂ® platform for providing access to the homes and connectivity within the homes. Echelon’s PLT-22 power line transceiver will allow the electric meter in each house to communicate with a concentrator on top of the power pole. Each concentrator, covering multiple homes in a neighborhood, will pass on the house specific real-time information to Enel central offices via a GSM connection.
Enel is also using Echelon’s LNS(tm) network operating system software to manage, monitor and control its giant automation network. The scalable LNS platform enables seamless, end-to-end connectivity from Enel’s back-end systems down to the electric meter and devices in the millions of homes being networked.
Services such as time-of-day rate downloads, load shedding and energy usage logging and trending as well as monitoring and control of everyday devices inside the home are just some of the services Enel is planning on implementing in the very near future. Oh, and one important detail, this is NOT a trial. It is real and it is a definite sign of the giant incoming wave that’s going to overtake the home automation and utility industry in the next few years.
The Wave of the Future
Utilities around the world are realizing that the on-going deregulation of their industry requires them to step up and offer new and dynamic services that differentiate their offerings from their competitors. Another enabler for the service-driven model of the Digital HomeÂ® is the undeniable and constant trend toward cheaper and faster broadband pipes into the home. These, coupled with the end-to-end device networking capabilities of the LonWorks platform, create the critical mass for enabling truly compelling products and services.
What’s unique about this revolution is that ALL the players involved have a lot to gain. The service providers (and other utilities) will have new revenue sources and increases customer retention while offering enhanced service offerings. The OEMs or device and appliance manufacturers will have a whole new market (or an immensely expanded market) to go after and sell to. And of course the homeowners will have a better quality of life while saving money. Now what’s more compelling than that?
As the cell phone and other markets have shown us, the service-driven model is here to stay, and it will have a profound effect on our lives as homeowners.
Hang on to your seats.
For more information on the Enel project you read the press release at http://www.echelon.com/company/press/enel.htm.
For more information on the Digital Home check out https://www.hometoys.com/mentors/raji/may00/intro.htm.