Energy management could end up being the killer app for the slow-moving home automation market. Well, at least companies selling products like broadband-based home security are rapidly moving to add energy to their lineups. Here’s the latest: iControl, a 5-year-old startup backed by some of the biggest names in venture capital and networking announced this morning that it has launched an energy management product for utilities, broadband service providers and security firms.
The Palo Alto, Calif.-based firm, which has received $45 million in funding from Kleiner Perkins, Charles River Ventures, Intel Capital, Cisco (s CSCO), General Electric (s GE), Comcast and security firm ADT, is making only the management software (not the hardware) and is partnering with device makers and networking companies to offer its product. Unlike some of the other energy management firms out there iControl is white labeling its product, which will be branded by its customer (for example a company like Verizon (s VZ), or a utility like PG&E (s PCG).
iControl CEO Paul Dawes sees security firms (like iControl investor ADT) as the fastest of its target markets to start delivering energy management to consumers. Security firms are finding themselves in a fluctuating market, which is moving from delivering services via the telephone networks to broadband networks, and Dawes says those companies will be attracted to iControl’s broadband-based security and energy management tools to stay competitive.
The company’s second target market, broadband service providers, like cable and phone companies, will start rolling out energy management by the first quarter of this year, predicts Dawes. “All the broadband companies will be doing this,” said Dawes. Last week startup EcoFactor launched its own software to control smart thermostats, also focused on the broadband service provider market.
Lastly iControl wants to partner with utilities to help them deliver energy management and demand response tools to customers. Dawes says utilities are already trialling its software, but he doesn’t expect this market to pick up for another 2-3 years.
iControl is also different from some of its competitors because it’s focusing on a low cost energy management product. Out of the gate the company expects its customers to provide consumers a smart thermostat and a gateway for around $70, and Dawes thinks that will drop to $50 over time. He expects broadband service providers to offer the energy management service to their customers for free, potentially bundled with a security system, and energy will act as a differentiator or value-add service, instead of a major revenue driver.
Ultimately the company’s biggest asset is probably its big-name backers. Cisco and GE are both playing key roles in the smart grid buildout, while Comcast’s cable customers could be a very important market. Of course it never hurts to have the Kleiner crew, with the likes of Al Gore, in your corner.
That said, iControl has significant competition from a variety of energy management firms that partly overlap with its service — here’s 10 energy management tools out there.