mandag 22. mars 2010

Control4 building its own app store for energy management tools

Control4, the home energy management company known for its compact display that resembles the iPhone, rolled out several big announcements today: first and foremost, the development of a Flash-based software developers kit for the ADVANTAGE software that runs on its EMS 100 home energy management displays. The upshot: the development kit will enable utilities and others to come out with their own energy apps, giving consumers more options.
Allowing third-parties to innovate for the 5-inch display — which, at its core, shows users how much energy they are using and what it is costing them in real time — will open the field to a host of new apps designed to monitor individual appliances’ energy consumption, expand home automation, and generally encourage energy efficiency and conservation. The SDK and Control4 App Store are slated to go live this summer.
Today, homeowners and commercial users alike, can use the Control4 display to automate any device equipped with a Zigbee radio (the protocol used by a vast majority of smart meters and appliances). This means you could tell your thermostat when to start heating your home, or tell your refrigerator to hold off on making ice until your clothes dryer as switched off. This functionality not only cuts down on overall energy use, but also lowers peak demand for utilities, keeping the grid healthier and preventing outages.
This feeds directly into demand-response programs run by many utilities to make sure demand doesn’t exceed energy supplies. Consumers who enroll in these programs receive rebates or other rewards in exchange for reducing their energy use during peak hours. Now, with the SDK in the open, it will be even easier for utilities to implement and keep tabs on this type of initiative.
“We’re giving utilities the tools they need and making it as simple as possible to deploy apps across thousands of units at the same time,” said Susan Cashen, Control4’s vice president of marketing. A lot of the SDK has to do with the backend of the software, making sure firmware updates go out instantly and simultaneously to all displays, and collecting data that could change the way they deliver electricity.
It’s becoming more important for utilities — particularly those in deregulated markets like Texas where consumers can choose where they get their energy — to offer new, innovative options to their customers. Control4’s display and applications do just that, Cashen says.
“Electric retailers in these markets are very much like the cell phone guys who always need to be developing the next new thing,” says Richard Walker, president of Control4. “What they come up with hopefully engages the consumer and gets them to sign up for multi-year contracts. We want to provide the same thing, to customize the experience for ratepayers.
The company’s other announcement, also related to its ADVANTAGE software, is that it will be integrating its displays into defense contractor Lockheed Martin’s demand-response program, called SEEload. Lockheed is just one of several similar corporations looking to bring their security know-how to the Smart Grid, and is already working with utilities across the country to make energy data networks impossible to infiltrate. By partnering with Lockheed, Control4 may succeed in making its brand synonymous with grid safety.
Based in Salt Lake City, Utah, Control4 isn’t only focused on energy. Its EMS 100 touchscreen display is also intended to be an entertainment, news and basic web portal. Homewoners can use the panel to access their music libraries, stream video to their televisions, and surf Facebook, as well. So users can expect to see apps like Pandora, Words with Friends, and more listed right alongside new utility apps for remotely turning your pool filter off, or even charging your Tesla Roadster in the garage.
Control4 has raised more than $78 million to date and is backed by Frazier Technology Ventures, Thomas Weisel Capital, Foundation Capital, vSpring Capital, Best Buy Capital, Mercato Partners and University Venture Fund.
Companies: Control4

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