by Bob Shively, Enerdynamics President and Lead Facilitator
In July of last year, we featured a blog post titled The Home of the Future, A Profit Center for Residents? It explored a future home in which a home energy management system (HEMS) connected to various home devices might automatically interact with electricity markets to lower energy costs or even turn the home into an energy profit center. At the end of the article we noted two developments necessary to further the home of the future: changes to the electric utility business model and growth of innovative service providers.
While utilities and regulators in a few jurisdictions are considering alternate business models and developing services, potential technology service providers are moving rapidly to create products that will attract consumers now.
In our infographic of the future home, the resident is looking intently at a “home energy app” on her tablet. Thanks to innovation introduced to the market by Amazon’s Echo, I now think we made a mistake when designing this graphic. Rather than showing the resident looking at a tablet, we should have simply shown her speaking. Amazon’s Alexa personal assistant, accessed through the home Echo speaker, can already perform voice-activated functions such as adjusting thermostats and lighting levels, controlling switches, and querying security systems to see whether a window is open.
By providing open source code to software developers, Amazon claims that Alexa has thousands of “skills” to help in the home. Home automation developers already include WeMo, Philips Hue, Samsung SmartThings, Wink, Insteon, Nest, and ecobee smart home devices.
Whether it is Amazon or some other provider like Google or Apple, you may already have an early version of your future HEMS in your house. According to recent survey by icontrol Networks, key reasons for consumers to invest in smart home technology include security, energy cost savings, convenience, environmental benefits, and home entertainment.
Amazon has made it easy to get started because consumers can dip their toes in the water by simply buying a $180 speaker — and then can incrementally add more and more services as they wish.
Utilities are beginning to notice the rapid technology development and may soon join in. One of the more forward utilities, Vermont-based Green Mountain Power, is offering a service called eHome. According to Green Mountain:
“eHome includes a home energy makeover that can include a heat pump hot water heater, heat pumps for heating and cooling, weatherization and LED lighting. It also includes innovative home automation controls to see energy use in real time and allow for control of thermostats, outlets, lights and heat pumps.”
With major technology companies such as Amazon and Google already fighting for your business and utilities beginning to take notice, the “home of the future” may be available sooner than later.
 2015 State of the Smart Home Report, https://www.icontrol.com/blog/2015-state-of-the-smart-home-report/
 See Google Home vs. Amazon Echo, http://www.cnet.com/news/google-home-vs-amazon-echo/