tirsdag 13. april 2010

4Home bags $6.8M to automate appliances and save energy

4Home, maker of software that gives homeowners centralized control over their appliances and electronics, has just brought in $6.8 million in venture funding — just two months after an SEC filing showed that it raised $4.3 million in equity.
The home automation market is getting a huge boost from the energy efficiency movement. Last month, the U.S. Department of Energy unveiled two new “cash for caulkers” programs tailored to home and commercial building efficiency. And now, a handful of startups offering software and devices to shave energy use and monthly bills are riding the trend. 4Home falls squarely into this category, along with others like Control4, Tendril, and eventually Google PowerMeter and Microsoft Hohm.
So far it seems like there’s plenty of room in the market for all of these players — although some analysts have questioned whether home energy management could be the first real cleantech bubble. 4Home saw it’s revenue grow by 300 percent over the last year, it doubled its workforce and is planning to move to a larger campus next month. That’s more than almost any other company in the space can say.
What 4Home has that most of its competitors lack is the ability to manage household media, as well as energy. In fact, it’s core business is providing a hub for music, movies, web videos and more — storing them and delivering them to televisions, computers and even mobile devices on-demand.
Relatively recently, the company spotted the potential to bring this kind of central dashboard coordination to home appliances. It started off with thermostats, giving users the ability to switch them on and off at certain times, or to control them remotely from other devices.
But the company’s roadmap also includes full household connectivity — giving users the power to turn on their clothing dryers, dishwashers, pull filters and more from their smartphones, or to run them automatically based on how much energy is being consumed in the house, or how much energy costs at the time (based on overall demand).
For example, the 4Home system could eventually tell your refrigerator to make ice only during off-peak hours when electricity is at its cheapest, or only when the clothes dryer or dishwasher aren’t running. The software is able to track how much energy is being used overall, and at the appliance level to make these sorts of granular decisions.
4Home’s success depends largely on the partnerships it forms with other home service providers. Earlier this year at the Consumer Electronics Show, it demonstrated its connected home system with the help of Verizon and Ingersoll Rand. It is also working with Sensus Metering Systems, Marvell Semiconductor and Sigma Designs to make sure its ControlPoint dashboard works with a range of mobile devices, electronics and appliances. Undoubtely, some if its new financing will be used to strengthen these relationships and forge new ones.
Whether or not it will pursue partnerships with utilities, as many other home energy management services have chosen to do, remains to be seen.
Based in Sunnyvale, Calif., 4Home previously raised $9.15M, partially from Pond Ventures.
Tags: energy efficiency, home energy management
Companies: 4Home, Control4, Pond Ventures, Tendril

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