The path to the smart home has been long and much debated, but evidence is growing that the concept has evolved to the point that takeoff is now imminent. [The Snakes and Ladders of Smart Home]
For many the smart meter, with an in-home display or smartphone app, potentially giving insights on their energy consumption is the starting point. A growing number are installing PV panels to supplement their energy use, and will (when the prices drop) likely add a battery for storage. Others are more interested in home comforts such as lighting and heating controls or security. With these are emerging platforms and software to interconnect and manage these different devices.
For most consumers the path to the smart home has been piecemeal, adding new devices as and when they are able to or as they are required. But the message from the market is that increasingly consumers are starting to demand combinations of these technologies.
“We see this convergence of technologies beginning to emerge as consumers look to develop a meaningful energy management suite in their homes,” Patrick Caiger-Smith, CEO of the UK-based Green Energy Options (geo) told Engerati at European Utility Week 2015.
Saying the company refers to this pooling, management and use of energy sources as the “hybrid energy home”, he continues: “We see this as the big flyer in the UK for the next couple of years.”
UK leads smart homes in Europe
A similar view was expressed by new UK energy provider Flow Energy CEO Andrew Beasley, who estimated in a recent interview that as many as 7 in 10 households in UK are expected to have some form of smart home technology within the next two to three years. [Flow Energy And Fifthplay Launch Smart Home Solutions In UK]
Mr Caiger-Smith attributes the smart home readiness of the UK market principally to the strategy of the government to promote energy efficiency to consumers, whereas in most of the countries of continental Europe consumers have not been included in the carbon debate.
The UK, along with Ireland are also the only countries to date to have mandated an in-home display with the smart meter deployments.
“We see consumer engagement starting to grow in some countries such as in Scandinavia, Netherlands and France,” he says.
He also comments on other market differences in continental Europe such as the larger number of rental households and the more fragmented utility markets in some countries.
Smart home vision
The vision of geo and other companies in the same space is this convergence of technologies on a single platform – something that doesn’t exist so far – with heating, appliances, microgeneration, storage, etc. being managed by displays in the home and remotely via apps.
“We have over 4,000 solar panels being monitored in real-time and about 60% of the energy being generated is currently wasted to the households,” comments Mr Caiger-Smith, adding that storage is expected to be the next major phase of home energy development. “In the next two years it will start being taken up by early adopters but within three to four years it should be a significant trend.”
He also suggests that companies and utilities should collaborate in smart home development. “For the smart/hybrid home technology to evolve it needs people who have both good understanding of deploying the various technologies but also a willingness to open up to the companies that supply the technologies.”