Over its 3-year lifetime, Cambridge, UK-based home energy management startup AlertMe has managed to develop a slick hardware design and become one of the first startups to sell its gear to customers. In the past several months since the company decided to focus predominantly on utility sales, however, it had not announced any utility deals. But on Monday morning AlertMe plans to announce a baby step in that direction — it has scored a partnership with a division of one of the largest residential suppliers of gas and electricity in the UK, British Gas, to do a trial using AlertMe’s energy management kit.
AlertMe hinted at the deal last month and told us it had been “working closely with some of the largest UK utilities and service providers, which we expect to convert to major strategic relationships in the near term.” The trial with British Gas will first focus specifically on a heating system that can be controlled remotely, enabling home owners to turn on/off, up/down their home heat from any broadband-connected device, like a PC or cell phone. British Gas is offering AlertMe gear as a voluntary option, and customers will actually have to pay for the upfront hardware as well as a recurring subscription service fee. The trial is supposed to start by the end of 2009.
AlertMe wouldn’t expand on the size of the trial or pricing of the gear and service. But when it comes to energy management products these days, utility trials are a dime a dozen. A lot of utilities are in the process of “sampling” — doing several small pilot deals with a lot of experimental companies. As a result, venture capitalists have been struggling to see past the initial lure of the smart home trial to identify the true leaders in the space.
Ultimately the most progressive utilities are using open networks and standards so that they can offer their customers any third-party application available. As the executive director of German utility Yello Strom, Martin Vesper, and the vice president of customer solutions for San Diego Gas & Electric, Hal Snyder, have told us: Whatever our customers want to use to manage energy consumption, we’ll offer it, whether that’s Google’s (s GOOG) PowerMeter, Microsoft’s (s MSFT) Hohm, or products from various gear makers.
AlertMe’s wireless network energy kit is connected to the Internet via the customer’s home broadband connection and doesn’t need a smart meter, both of which make it particularly easy for a trial — no additional utility-installed infrastructure is needed. AlertMe’s energy kit includes technology for a home wireless network, sensors and smart plugs to control appliances and can cost between £149.00 ($243) and £399 ($650), plus £9.99 ($14.09) per month, depending on the size and features. The company recently closed a Series B round of £8 million ($13.04 million) from Good Energies, Index Ventures, SET Partners and VantagePoint Venture Partners.