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Summary:

Could Apple’s iPad tablet be disruptive to how people will one day manage energy consumption in their homes? This morning in Hannover, Germany, startup Visible Energy plans to show off its home energy management focused iPad application (see screen shots below).

Could Apple’s iPad tablet be disruptive to how people will one day manage energy consumption in their homes? Startups building businesses around enabling consumers to monitor and manage home energy consumption are certainly paying attention to it — this morning in Hannover, Germany, at the Hannover Messe 2010 conference, startup Visible Energy plans to show off an iPad application focused on home energy management (see screen shots below).

Visible Energy’s iPad app is a tweak of its iPhone app, which is connected to the Energy UFO product that the company launched at our Green:Net conference in 2009 (Green:Net 2010 will take place on April 29). The Energy UFO product includes smart outlets that can be controlled wirelessly over a home network and the application (as well as the web site) displays energy usage and provides remote control and programming capabilities. Visible Energy says the iPad version will be available “shortly” (the iPhone app can also be used over the iPad).

The iPad could ultimately be disruptive in the home energy market, because if consumers embrace it as a popular “fourth screen” in the home, it could both displace the need for separate energy gadgets, and could also give a boost the home energy management market. The home energy market is a nascent ecosystem that’s made up of: utilities that are trying get their customers to consume less energy, startups building smart energy software and energy dashboards that will manage energy data in the home and help customers consume less, large manufacturers dabbling in connected appliances, and investors looking for ways to make money.

If you’re never heard of the market, it’s because from a consumer perspective it really doesn’t exist yet. According to Texas-based consultants KEMA, 68 percent of Americans haven’t heard of the smart grid, and exuberance in the home energy market “should be tempered to account for the challenge of engaging large numbers of residential customers.”

The early stage is one reason why the iPad could be disruptive. Visible Energy CEO Marco Graziano, told me earlier this month:

I never thought specialized displays were a good idea for monitoring energy consumption. They don’t have any sex appeal and are too expensive anyway as freebies for utilities to give away. We found that interactivity is really a plus when it gets to visualizing energy consumption and to engaging people in energy awareness. In this respect the iPad is a breakthrough.

Visible Energy is the second home energy management iPad app coming to market — Control4 launched a free iPad app during the hullabaloo of the iPad launch weekend. At the time, Glen Mella, the President and COO of Control4 told me in an interview: “We’re excited to embrace the iPad as another way to bring home automation and home energy management to the mainstream.”

The iPad has a real chance of playing a key role in “the digital home,” a long-discussed market where consumers are supposed to use a fourth screen to manage home digital entertainment, security, lighting, and heating and cooling. In recent months home automation players like Control4 have added on energy management as another feature, (see Is Energy Management the Killer App For the Home Automation Market?, GigaOM Pro, subscription required).

The iPad could offer a few unique characteristics specifically for home energy management in comparison to an energy-specific dashboard gadget — like those made by Tendril, EnergyHub and Control4 (yep they make a gadget too) — mobile interfaces with smaller screens like the iPhone, or a website on a computer. Those advantages include a large screen, the ability for rich media and the fact that the device can do an unlimited amount of other tasks. “People aren’t buying the iPad for energy, but now they have this sleek and capable energy device,” says Mella.

For research on the iPad see GigaOM Pro (subscription required):

Web Tablet Survey: Apple’s iPad Hits the Right Notes: We asked 1,000 early adopters about their interest in owning a tablet. Find out who’s likely to buy and why.

Forecast: Tablet App Sales To Hit $8B by 2015: A detailed look at iPad and other tablet sales, as well as app purchasing behavior, volume and revenue forecasts.

The Developer’s Guide to Home Energy Management Apps

By Katie Fehrenbacher

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