mandag 22. mars 2010

Tendril unveils device to make saving energy run like clockwork

A horde of companies is taking on home energy management — and each is working to present consumers with energy consumption information in a way that will actually make them change their behavior and conserve resources. One of the frontrunners, Tendril, is launching its solution, called the Vision, this week at DistributTECH — and it looks a lot different from what you might think.
I first heard about the Vision back in November, when I was talking to Tendril CEO Adrian Tuck at VentureBeat’s GreenBeat conference. He told me about an energy monitoring device the company was developing with famed design firm IDEO that would look like an analog clock face. The idea behind it: presenting energy data in a format that people of all ages already understand.
The Vision looks a lot like an alarm clock, or an iPhone turned on its side, with a sleek, simple touchscreen interface. The 8-by-6-inch display is designed to show how much energy a household is using, and how much it is costing its residents in real time. When people see how much less they could be paying if only they turned their lights or appliances off during certain times of day, they will rethink their behavior — at least that’s what Tendril’s Tuck is counting on.
The company’s new device receives data transmitted from smart meters, and other appliances equipped with radio transmitters capable of communicating energy data. In addition to reflecting energy use and temperature, the interface also indicates peak and low-demand periods, so that users know when the energy they are using is at its cheapest or most expensive. That way, users can choose to run the dishwasher or the clothing dryer during off-peak periods.
The Vision device is also a web-portal, allowing users to look at even more detailed information about their energy consumption, and program it to send them different alerts.
Tendril competitors Control4 (which had a big announcement about its energy display today), and OpenPeak, among others, offer devices of similar size and shape with very different interfaces. Both of them present apps for consumers, not unlike the iPhone home screen, and represent energy consumption in slightly more complex bar and line graphs. Tendril’s take is certainly more streamlined — operating off the theory that less is more.
While Control4 offers a separate device, called the ES 100, to monitor energy — it also makes the information available via users’ television screens and web browsers. This is a common tactic among home energy management services, including Google PowerMeter, Microsoft Hohm, and more.
So the biggest challenge facing Tendril’s Vision may not be why buy it over other companies’ dashboards? Rather, why buy a separate device at all when you could access the same info via the web or TV? The company has yet to say whether it will develop versions of the Vision for these channels.
Tendril released other big news today — that it has just signed a license agreement with Swiss smart meter maker Landis+Gyr, allowing it to market Tendril’s energy management products to its client base, namely utilities. Many of Landis+Gyr’s customers already use Tendril’s hardware and software, but the deal will promote development of energy management devices, thermostats and software releases tailored to utilities using Landis+Gyr meters.
Companies: Control4, OpenPeak, Tendril
People: Adrian Tuck

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