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In the past couple of weeks startups and infotech giants have been racing to launch, or acquire, home energy management tools. Next will come, over the next year, a battle to see which companies can sign up the most utilities. Google (s GOOG), which already announced partnerships with eight utilities, has found its first European partner, Germany’s Yello Strom.
Yello Strom has 1.4 million customers and is in the process of rolling out the nicely designed bright yellow Sparzähler meter (or “savings meter”). Interestingly enough, according to Microsoft, Yello Strom has been working with Microsoft’s (s MSFT) German subsidiary Microsoft Deutschland on the software and design side of Sparzähler and the actual communication module is built around Microsoft Windows CE. Microsoft and Yello Strom also made a big announcement at last year’s Cebit tech conference about working together on web-based energy management software.
It’s probably not a coincidence that Google is making this announcement this week (a week after Microsoft launched its Hohm energy software tool.) But in the world of web-based energy management Microsoft and Google are bringing different options to utilities. For PowerMeter, at this point, Google is closely focusing on smart meter data, while Microsoft is taking the approach of waiting to incorporate smart meter data when it becomes available and offering a basic energy tool now (or soon, it’s supposed to be “live” this week).
It sounds like Yello Strom (similar to other progressive utilities, such as San Diego Gas & Electric) is working with many web-based energy management options, to give its consumers whatever choice they want. SDG&E told us that Google’s PowerMeter is just the first tool it’s working with for smart meter software and emphasized the fact that other partnerships would soon follow. We’re waiting to hear back from Yello about more details of their web strategy.
Yello Strom’s Sparzähler sounds particularly well-suited to easily work with any web-based tool, as it’s broadband-connected and uses Internet protocol at its core. The meter communicates directly with the utility using TCP/IP network, and sends a signal back to Yello Strom servers every 15 minutes. Make sure to watch the video of Yello’s customers talking in their native language about energy meters and the really slick Sparzähler in use!