Greenbox: Flash Creators Tackle Energy in the Home

Cleantech startups have been liberally taking cues from the Internet world, like using IP tech for a smarter power grid or leveraging Web 2.0 tools to sell solar. Here’s another one for ya: The creators of the well-known interactive web technology Flash are building web-based software to measure a home’s energy consumption and ultimately help homeowners reduce their power usage.

Greenbox, the year-old startup based in San Bruno, Calif., was formed by the two co-creators of Flash — Jonathan Gay and Robert Tatsumi — along with key Flash designers Peter Santangeli and Gary Grossman. Matthew Smith, who formerly hails from Liquid Audio, is heading up their marketing department. And the company is backed with an angel round from the former CEO of Macromedia, Rob Burgess, and former Macromedia CFO Betsey Nelson.

We haven’t had a chance to check out the software yet, as the team says they’re still working on the product, but we’re thinking such a strong history in Flash could deliver some pretty compelling services. Here’s what it’s supposed to do: Connect with wireless sensors and smart devices to monitor a home’s energy, gas and water usage; present that data to the homeowner with well-designed graphs and charts — then recommend ways to cut down on using those resources.

The trick with energy management software is that currently the average person doesn’t see the need to manage and track their own energy, so the system has to be both engaging and super easy to use. Not to mention that very few homes currently have the right smart devices — advanced electrical meters, connected thermostats — installed to be able to even benefit from energy management services.

Greenbox’s VP of marketing, Matt Smith, says their idea is to make the software much more interactive, using a recommendation engine to propose behavioral changes or even products to buy, like more efficient light bulbs. They will also have a community comparison feature, which would tap into homeowner’s competitive, or “go with the crowd” spirit, to change behavior.

While Greenbox has an impressive story to tell with its Flash roots, there are other startups working on the same idea. We’ve written about Lucid Design Group, an Oakland, Calif.-based startup that won a prize at the California Cleantech Open last year, and has built an energy dashboard for resource management. While Lucid is mostly focused on monitoring energy use in corporate environments, I know they plan to work more in the consumer market.

Agilewaves is another that has an energy dashboard in the works, and just put in an installation of system at the Nueva School in Hillsborough, Calif. Agilwaves also works with installers to use its system for greener systems, like a living roof, a geothermal well, or an efficient sprinkler system.

Greenbox’s Smith says the company is testing its system in 10 homes right now and plans to offer it commercially by late 2008 or early 2009. Smith says the company hasn’t priced the software yet, but plans to work with utilities, home system installers, and one day big-box retailers to sell its product.

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