In a previous article I talked about my thermostat and the Internet of Everything [read here] I questioned the true value my smart meter was providing to my home and my wallet. I said what’s missing is a thermostat that helps me understand my energy consumption habits, allows me to stay within budget (and save money!) and eventually take advance of spot prices on energy. Wouldn’t that be cool?!
The good news is that there are products on the market today that are heading in the right direction. Nest, recently acquired by Google for $3.2 billion [read here], offers a “learning thermostat” which Bill MacGowen wrote about earlier in his post: My home thermostat and the Internet of Everything” [read here].
The Nest acquisition is a big deal and there’s already discussions starting to surface on what Google plans to do with the data they will gather from Nest devices. Why is Google getting into the energy management and HVAC market? What will they do with the data? Will there be ads showing up on my Google thermostat? This led me to wonder who else was in this market space? Are there any alternatives to Nest? Of course there are but they’ve been overshadowed by Nest because of the origins of it’s founder (Apple) and Google’s recent purchase.
One of them is ecobee, a Canadian company. While they may not be a household name (yet) they’ve been around since 2007 plugging away and growing their business organically. I reached out to ecobee because I wanted to learn more about the company, it’s founder and his thoughts on where he sees the future heading for IoT/IoE.
Below is part two of my email conversation with the founder and CEO of ecobee, Stuart Lombard. Click here to read part one of the interview.
In 2013, you opened your API allowing others to integrate with ecobee smart thermostats. Can you explain what this means for advancing IoT and what success looks like so far?
There is a lot of innovation around IoT right now. At ecobee, we want to give our customers the opportunity to experience all of it. But we know we can’t build it all. So we’ve opened our APIs to allow others to integrate with us so we can deliver more value to our customers, and our customers can choose the solutions they want. Currently, we have hundreds of companies – like SmartThings and revolv – building applications around our platform. We’re excited to see where our open API will take our technology.
In my previous Cisco blog post, I confessed the promise of smart meters is lost on me. Can you explain how ecobee is working with utilities so homeowners and businesses will see the benefit of smart meters on their energy consumption and bank accounts?
Driven by the economics of electricity generation (including the increase in renewable power) and transmission, the way we buy energy is changing. The price of power is not constant. As demand increases, the cost to generate each additional kWh goes up. For example, during periods of low demand, electricity might cost $0.03 per kWh, but on a really hot summer day – when air conditioners run full tilt – the cost for a kWh might be $5.00. These kinds of high energy use times might only happen 100 hours per year or less. However, utility companies still need to build out infrastructure for peak demand times so they can handle the electricity demand.
Smart meters allow utilities to charge customers different rates depending on when they actually use power vs. charging a traditional flat rate. This provides a financial incentive for consumers to use less power when electricity is expensive resulting in higher asset utilization for utilities and lower costs for consumers.
In addition, you can now bid savings into the market the same way you bid new generation. ecobee works with leading utilities to deliver innovative demand response programs that allow consumers who conserve energy during peak times to get a rebate on their bill for using less – they also save because they are using less energy when rates are expensive. Utilities also provide rebates to homeowners because of the option to either sell the savings or forgo buying electricity when rates are really high. All of this value is delivered by smart grid technologies including smart meters.
What’s your take on the Nest/Google acquisition and what makes ecobee different?
The Google/Nest transaction is fantastic – it really validates the market we’re in and puts a spotlight on smart products like ours. When we shipped the firstecobee in 2009, the reaction from most people was “You’re doing what?”. This news clearly shows the huge benefits of installing smart thermostats.
The acquisition has also increased consumer awareness about the benefits of this smart home technology. More than that, it is an opportunity for ecobee to highlight our key advantages over our competitor, which are:
· Reliability: Consumer Reports ranked ecobee in the top 3 thermostats with a 94% rating and customer reviews on Amazon are very positive highlighting our reliability. For example, we stay away from unreliable installation processes like Power Stealing which causes your thermostat to run of our battery power and fail to heat/cool your home
· Ease of Use: ecobee doesn’t need to ‘learn’ your schedule overtime, but asks for your schedule out of the box, which takes less than a minute to setup
· Energy Savings: our advanced technology understands your home’s energy performance and the weather outside to deliver your ideal temperature as soon as you walk in the door or wake up
· Open Platform: with ease of integration, ecobee is a major player in the advancement of connected home opportunities through its open APIs
What role do you see companies like Cisco playing in the Internet of Things/Internet of Everything
IoT will connect billions of devices and generate huge amounts of data. As the leading networking and storage infrastructure provider, Cisco plays a huge role in connecting these devices and making sure they all work flawlessly.
Check out the “A day in the Life” video by ecobee below!