Blog Post

Tendril to Launch Digital Clock Inspired Home Energy Gadget

Make it familiar and compelling — that’s the idea behind the design of energy management startup Tendril’s new gadget dubbed the Vision, which the company plans to unveil next week. The dashboard, designed by design firm IDEO, and based on the form of a digital clock, is intended to help consumers really engage with managing their energy consumption by using captivating design elements. Because, let’s face it, managing home energy consumption isn’t exactly the sexiest activity. (Read our interview with IDEO’s CEO Tim Brown, subscription required).

Tendril’s Scott Ballantyne, Vice President of Marketing, told me that IDEO and Tendril spent eight months studying and researching human behavior in order to create the Vision. They found that by adding design elements like the familiarity of the clock design, they could keep users engaged enough to reduce their energy consumption by an average of 10-15 percent. The Vision is also able to provide real time data for pricing fluctuations (energy rates go up during peak demand times) if a utility is providing that to the customer, which helps a customer manage energy consumption.

Ballantyne said the Vision will cost under $200 and will start shipping widely in 2011, around the time that utilities plan to start their home energy management trials. Tendril’s dominant distribution channel is selling its devices and services through utilities, and that will be consistent with the Vision. Tendril also sells a more standard energy dashboard display.

While the Vision will be able to provide data for real-time pricing and demand response events, how “real-time” that information will be totally depends on the utility. As we’ve been reporting this week most utilities won’t be able to provide anything close to real-time pricing information to its customers for quite some time. Despite the fact that Google (s GOOG) (a Tendril partner) is pushing for real-time energy pricing and usage data, the big utilities in California (which are some of the most progressive in the U.S.) are pushing back.

I can’t vouch for how engaging the Vision is, but I applaud any company trying to bring innovation into the energy management space — it sorely needs it. And I have been seeing increased attention from companies looking to open up an ecosystem, and offering software developer kits and APIs, for home energy management (see The Developer’s Guide to Home Energy Management Apps on GigaOM Pro, subscription required). Microsoft (s MSFT) and Google have recently made moves to work with developers for their energy management tools, startup People Power launched its open source based platform earlier this week, and Tendril opened up its API last year.

13 Responses to “Tendril to Launch Digital Clock Inspired Home Energy Gadget”

  1. My gut feeling is that if the Amazon Kindle were to be released at a very very low price (say $40) then it would dominate. I just dont think thats going to happen though

  2. My guess is it will all migrate to multipurpose devices like the iPad. I have a home weather station that tells me the temperature. I’d like a display that also monitors energy, shows me the headlines, the traffic on my way out, a photo of who’s calling on the phone, phases of the moon, high tides, pictures of my kids, anything I want. It’s just a display, after all. Seems silly to have dedicated devices for everything, each of which costs money and clutters up the house. So this will all move to software in another year or two, by the time the utilities are ready to give us the info. Tendril for the iPad, 2011.

  3. Clyde Ensslin

    Katie, this announcement illustrates one of the conclusions of your January 22 post “Why The Consumer Will Be King of Home Energy Management in 2010.” As the consumer energy management market develops, being user-friendly will be even more vital to success than being utility-friendly.

    • It’s amazing that anyone would pour so many millions into producing a big glass touchscreen when there are so many inexpensive devices already in existence that could do the same work. For example any of the myriad of $1.95 picture frames with just a software change. Those frames are stocked floor to ceiling in factories and warehouses, no one is buying.

      Hexane riots in China aside, does the energy saved even outweigh the energy expended in manufacturing the device?