Tendril Partners With Game Maker; "Eco-Warrior" to Gain Strength as Lights Dim

tendril-smart-grid-graphicTendril Networks, which makes energy-management technology for consumers and utilities, is partnering with an unnamed “major computer game manufacturer” to build a new computer game whose main character, an “eco-warrior,” will gain power as users reduce their energy consumption in their homes. Tendril CEO Adrian Tuck, who hinted at the partnership during a panel discussion at The Networked Grid conference in San Francisco on Wednesday, told us that the game manufacturer is a California subsidiary of a “non-American company.”

He declined to say when the game will be available, although it will be more than six months. The game raises the possibility, according to Tuck, of kids encouraging their parents to turn off the home clothes dryer and lights in order to improve their progress in the game.

“It’s real-world things impacting what’s happening inside the game,” Tuck told us. The Boulder, Colo.-based startup’s wireless home energy management system, called TREE, would automatically feed home energy use data via the Internet to the game’s servers.

tendril-smart-grid-ecosystemThe game isn’t Tendril’s first foray into cool tech tools for energy geeks. At the DEMO conference earlier this year, Tuck showed off an application for web-enabled phones meant to let customers of select utilities see their home energy consumption in real time, view dynamic pricing changes, and control connected appliances and thermostats remotely.

This new partnership for a computer game comes as Tendril strives to become the go-to platform for home area networks. As smart grid analyst Jesse Berst has written, the firm “wants to be the Microsoft Windows of the sector, providing an open architecture and foundational technology on top of which everybody builds their own offerings.” That’s why Tendril is partnering with General Electric (s GE). Among other things, the two firms will co-develop advanced load control strategies for GE’s appliances to respond to utility-initiated signals.  The more gadgets that can seamlessly talk with Tendril’s system, the more attractive it becomes to consumers (and electric utilities who might offer the technology).

Tendril, which raised a $30 million third round of venture funding in June, so far only sells its home energy management system to utilities. As of January this year, at least five major utilities were using Tendril’s system in pilot projects and another 15 were conducting tests, according to Berst. Selling through risk-averse utilities, which can have millions of customers, has the promise of major deals, but it also means business development chugs along slowly.

Graphics courtesy of Tendril