Electronic Picture Frame Becomes the Voice of Smart Meters

A digital photoframe by CEIVA aims to offer a more engaged consumer experience around energy consumption.
Published: Thu 12 Feb 2015

Between 50 to 60 million smart meters have already been deployed in the US. The impressive new smart device is meant to help consumers monitor their consumption more effectively, thereby empowering them to change habits and reduce their power bills.

However, the device seems to have failed to really engage the consumer.

As the debate between in-home displays (IHD) and mobile apps intensifies as to which will deliver the better solution, could the answer lie in existing displays already in the home or those which are delivering innovative solutions like picture sharing to increase interactivity?

The smart meter broadcasts very useful information on a very granular level but no-one appears to be paying attention to the data it is providing. This is according to Wannie Park, CEIVA Energy’s vice president of utility solutions who spoke to Engerati at the recent Smart Energy UK and Europe Summit 2015.

Holding the customer’s attention

CEIVA Energy has recognised this as a major gap in the market and is helping utilities harness the huge potential of smart meters through their home energy management platform, which includes web and mobile apps, a backend software solution for utilities to manage energy use, and an in-home digital frame.

According to Park, the product offers a range of applications that are guaranteed to keep the customer engaged. “The clever aspect of this is that the photos on the display keep people engaged. You basically have their eyeballs already. Consumers will also be able to view daily updates on traffic, weather, stock reports, and even sports scores. There are dozens of channels to choose from.”

CEIVA works directly with energy suppliers so that they can not only provide real time consumption data but also promote different events such as refrigerator rebate programmes and ranging electricity prices. Says Park of this capability, “The information will really help customers manage their consumption better. The frame offers so much useful data that people will not want to be without it.”

The bundling of all the applications is highly innovative. CEIVA has been in the business of hardware for 15 years and have taken this DNA and transferred it into the utility space.

“We are good at hardware-we understand the supply chain and we know logistics. We always had this fundamental belief that if you don’t have that hardware in the house, reading that smart meter in real time, it is then very much algorithm-driven which is typically a little harder to break down at the most granular level, the consumer level.

Filling a gap in the market

Utilities are able to communicate more effectively with their customers via the 8-inch digital frame’s screen, which displays customers’ real-time energy usage information alongside personal photos synched automatically from sources like Facebook and Instagram.

The digital frame, called the CEIVA Homeview frame, is Zigbee-enabled to receive energy use data from the home’s smart meter. All the data, including photos and meter readings, go to CEIVA’s servers for processing before being displayed in the frame.

Every 90 seconds, the photo frame displays the home’s energy consumption data. But the data points are reduced to two or three simple numbers, not a chart or graph or a list of data points that simply spits out a whole bunch of complex data, which can be very confusing for the consumer (but for those who are interested in detailed data, they can request this manually.)

The frame enables consumers to view the electricity rate, as well as an estimated utility bill for that month, thereby avoiding any nasty surprises when it comes to paying bills. The electric rate is expressed in cents per hour instead of kWh since most people don’t understand or care about what the term “kilowatt-hour” means. However, they will certainly understand the idea of how much they are spending during each hour. Daily consumption figures can also be made available to consumers and utilities can use the frame to share energy saving tips with their consumers.

Best of all, consumers can check their energy consumption whilst they are away from home by tapping into their smart phone application or web application, both of which CEIVA provides.

CEIVA makes money by selling the picture frames and charging utilities subscription fees for designing how the data is displayed and for collecting and analyzing the data. ”

Demand response made easier

CEIVA is currently managing a home area network pilot, involving 15,000 homes, in Worcester, Massachusetts. “We take care of everything in the home area network- the thermostat, load control devices, switches, IHD gateway, etc. We also help to manage software on the utility side to issue demand response and energy efficiency programmes in the residential areas.”

Because the frame is connected on both the ZigBee and WiFi networks, you can promote an out of home industry that you wouldn’t be able to with an AMI gateway. This means that you will have access to real time data in your home as well as control over it on your android device or iPhone.

“The utility has a great opportunity to create demand response and energy efficiency programmes around this capability. Utilities can even incentivize those who choose to participate in demand response events. The ability to communicate and access these controls has been made much easier with the frame.”

Park explains that CEIVA aims to partner with energy suppliers and meter vendors in order to “piggy back” the smart meter rollout and introduce the in-home technology. He says that this is the best time to approach the customer because often they do not understand the benefits of the smart meter. “This is the best time to explain exactly what our technology can do to harness the benefits of the smart meter.”

Parks says that CEIVA is in consideration with a few of the Big Six in the UK.