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Summary:

Internet giants Google and Microsoft have officially given their web-based energy management tools the Donald Trump (as in You’re Fired!), and lannounced that they would be closing them down. But there are still over a dozen options trying to tackle this difficult market.

EcoFactorMap1

Consumer Panel: Will West, Control4, and Alex Laskey, OPower at Green:Net 2011Internet giants Google and Microsoft have officially given their web-based energy management tools the Donald Trump (as in, “You’re Fired!”), and last week, announced they would be closing them down in the near future. I’ve already dug into a few reasons why I think Google’s PowerMeter tool and Microsoft’s Hohm app didn’t make the cut.

But there are still over a dozen tools out there trying to tackle this difficult market, from direct-to-consumer gadgets to more high-end services bundled with security, broadband, and solar systems. Will the startups, entrepreneurs, tech firms and investors behind these energy services succeed in a market that already has a good deal of collateral damage? Well, many more will struggle, but there could be a few breakout hits out there if they position themselves in the right way. Here are a dozen companies still vying for this market:

Home automation, security, broadband partners

Control4. Control4, founded in 2003 to provide home automation services, moved into the energy management space in summer 2009. In the energy space, the company sells wireless devices and services to utilities for home energy management, and counts customers like Nevada utility NV Energy. Utilities can use Control4′s tools to do residential demand response, which is basically asking customers to turn down their energy in various ways when the utility wants to more tightly manage the grid’s power use. Control4 has raised close to $75 million in funding from Frazier Technology Ventures’ Partner, vSpring Capitals, and Thomas Weisel Venture Partners.

iControl. iControl is the company behind Comcast’s new home security and energy management service, and has raised over $100 million from investors including Comcast Ventures (the VC arm of Comcast), Cisco, Intel’s VC arm Intel Capital, Kleiner Perkins’ iFund, and the parent company of security firm ADT. iControl says its latest round of $50 million will help the company expand its energy-based software and services, which enable home owners and utilities to be able to remotely manage lights, connected thermostats and smart appliances.

4Home. In December, telco gear giant Motorola  announced it was buying home automation and energy monitoring startup 4Home via its communications subsidiary Motorola Mobility. 4Home’s software enables home owners to access information — from digital media to energy info, home security and health data — across devices, and remotely. Verizon is using the 4Home service for its first trial of home automation and energy management.

Xanboo. AT&T bought home automation and energy player Xanboo in December. Xanboo   is a decade-old firm that was one of the original home automation players and enables home owners to monitor security, energy consumption, and digital media across devices.

EcoFactor. EcoFactor sells a service to utilities and broadband service providers (and other channel partners) that automates turning down a connected thermostat. The company shaves off energy use without the customer feeling the difference and provides a lower bill for the customer. EcoFactor says it has reached 17 percent energy savings in its trials.

Utility-focused energy services

Tendril. Tendril is the poster child for a company that has aggressively focused on reaching the home energy management market via utilities. The company sells software and devices that monitor and manage the home energy consumption of consumers, and recently scored a deal with (and an investment from) energy gear provider Siemens. Tendril has raised at least $73 million from investors including VantagePoint Venture Partners, Good Energies, and RRE Ventures.

OPower. OPower isn’t yet really in the home energy gadget or service space. Instead, it uses its software to help utilities send aggregated, detailed bills. But OPower is considering adding an energy gadget to its portfolio, the company told us. That move could put it squarely in competition with other utility-focused home energy management players like Tendril.

Silver Spring Network’s home energy tool. Smart grid network player Silver Spring Networks bought Greenbox a few years ago to be able to offer its utility customers home energy tools. So far, its energy savings in trials have been impressive.

Direct-to-consumer energy tools (some of these work with utilities, too)

PowerCost Monitor. Canadian Blue Line Innovations has started selling a $99 energy management device called the PowerCost Monitor at big box retailer Fry’s Electronics. That’s one of the lowest-cost home energy management devices we’ve seen yet that’s widely available. The PowerCost Monitor comes in two parts: a sensor and radio device which fits onto any electricity meter, and a display, which picks up the wireless signal of the home’s electricity data emitted by the sensor/radio. Blue Line Innovations was founded back in 2003, and already has over 100,000 PowerCost Monitors in the field today, mostly through utility installations. But the company told me that it has been shifting its primary focus to the consumer.

WattVision. Wattvision is a two-year-old Y-Combinator-born company that sells a bare-bones, low-cost energy management tool that it says is a snap to install on your meter and can be monitored via the web. It costs about $250 on its website, which is higher than I expected when I interviewed the company a couple of years ago. When Google shut its PowerMeter tool down, WattVision offered a $50-off coupon for the coupon code: “byepowermeter”.

TED, The Energy Detective. The TED device is made by Energy Inc, which was founded back in 2001, before energy management was a hot topic anywhere. Energy Inc. President and CEO Dolph Rodenberg told me in an interview that about 40 percent of its sales come from utilities — though declined to name its utility customers — while the majority of its sales come from the direct-to-consumer market. TED was also the first company to work with PowerMeter. Energy Inc also has backing by 3M.

AlertMe. AlertMe is a startup based in the U.K. that makes a home automation, security and energy management service. I’ve played with the company’s kit, and it has a nice design and is pretty easy to set up. AlertMe is backed by Index Ventures, Good Energies, VantagePoint Venture Partners, SET Venture Partners, and British Gas.

Images courtesy of Blue Line, Silver Spring Networks, GigaOM Events, and EcoFactor.

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  1. The tools listed in this article are really quite different from PowerMeter. They are largely hardware energy monitoring solutions with dashboard components, whereas PowerMeter was just the software to display and track energy costs for people with existing, whole-house monitors. A better list for people who want alternatives to PowerMeter would be: PlotWatt, MyEnerSave, It’s Electric, MyEragy, etc.

    1. To be clear, wattvision is an end-to-end solution. If you already have a home energy monitor like the TED, you can use wattvision as well. We’ve supported data from the TED for over a year now. :)

  2. Katie Fehrenbacher Tuesday, July 5, 2011

    @Daniel, thanks for the additional info, good list!

  3. Jim Pasquale Tuesday, July 5, 2011

    Interesting insight to how these companies are pushing the rock forward in HA, hoping all of these efforts are embracing the Openremote standard, and are approaching their app development based on event driven architecture. Something like that of Kynetx’s offers. As true home automation comes down to not just managing by a set plan or pattern, but listening for events and taken actions once they occur.

  4. Both the software and hardware options have to address the same problems that have faced home automation since the late 1970’s – the lack of a clear consumer value function. Hardware has a tough road to travel, if low-cost software service options like those from Microsoft and Google can’t make it. The customer value function won’t improve until the utility community seriously considers prices that reflect system cost.

  5. Do any of these work with PG&E in San Francisco seamlessly without any additional hardware other than the PG&E smart meter? Wattvision? thanks much

  6. Scott Elliott Tuesday, July 5, 2011

    The big questions about energy “dashboards” are: will any savings be sustained for the decades needed by utilities and are early adopters results indicative of a broader user base. User fatigue will pay a big part of how these tools play out. Will user demand that their energy savings be done for them? Surely, a small niche will continue to be interested a decade from now, but the vast majority will grow weary of the same messages to turn down the AC because it is too hot. There is even a conspicuous consumptions segment that responds to efficiency messaging by using more energy. Go figure.
    In the long run, buildings, devices and systems that are inherently more efficient without sacrificing comfort and functionality will will win out. Most folks just want the lights to come on and expect the widgets to fix the problems so they can go about their lives.

    1. Scott take a look @ the open remote project, I believe you’ll find it very interesting when it comes to “a dashboard” implementation.

  7. I have never understood why the energy component in terms of what is being used by appliances is not required by law to be built in…should not the consumer him or herself see what is being used on a daily basis by the appliances and not cede control to utility companies??

  8. Martin Flusberg Tuesday, July 5, 2011

    For consumers, the key is what value is being provided. As several people have noted, and has been covered in postings before, there is a fatigue factor related to in home displays and energy dashboards with limited information. The eMonitor by Powerhouse Dynamics is not about an in home display (there isn’t any) or even a web dashboard (there is an excellent one); it is about proactively making consumers aware of savings opportunities as well as problems and issues with their appliances and other home devices, based on actual usage. Savings in the range of 15-20% have routinely been reported; ongoing savings in excess of 30% are not uncommon

  9. Don’t forget WattzOn, a BusinessWeek Best Idea of 2008, which provides free and easy tools for consumers to understand and manage their energy use, including automated connection to dozens, and growing, of energy utilities.

    Originally created by Raffi Krikorian (@raffi of Twitter) and Saul Griffith (MacArthur “Genius” Award Winner), WattzOn recently combined with Ennovationz, a Silicon Valley based consumer energy efficiency company launched by veterans from MIT and Microsoft. WattzOn is growing and continues to roll out new features and capabilities.

    Wattzon has also been selected by the PBS series, Earth the Operator’s Manual to support viewers in creating personalized energy savings plans.

  10. I have had a TED, Blueline and Wattvision. The Wattvision is the most stable and easiest to install. It’s web interface is also the best.

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