Consumer electronics heavyweight Belkin continues to launch more of its Conserve line of products that enable users to manage energy consumption in homes and office buildings. This morning, Belkin unveiled its Conserve Gateway, which wirelessly connects to smart meters and an Internet router to deliver energy consumption information to a Conserve website (see awkward staring guy pictured left looking at the device).
Up to this point, Belkin has tended to offer Conserve products that are focused on helping offices and consumers curb vampire power, including a smart power strip, a mobile device-charging station, a wall-socket timer and a smart surge protector. But Conserve’s Gateway is focused squarely on the utility, and Belkin isn’t selling the product directly to consumers.
The Gateway is meant to be paired with a smart meter and can provide a two-way connection between the utility and the customer. Belkin notes that the Gateway can be used to push information to the consumer via the website like pricing signals, efficiency tips or demand response alerts.
Belkin isn’t disclosing the price of the device right now, a spokesperson told me, but any device that will focus specifically on energy management — and isn’t a high-end home automation device — will have to be pretty low-cost. Estimates of just how much either consumers or utilities are likely to spend on managing home energy use range from $50 to $200 per home, depending on how much detail and control the systems offer. Pike Research predicts that the home energy management market will grow fairly slowly, with only some 28 million energy-aware homes worldwide by 2015.
Even so, devices like Belkin’s Gateway are starting to go on sale to utilities and consumers at an increasing pace. Startup Tendril has been focused on building a business off of providing utilities energy dashboard and energy management services. Home automation company Control4 launched a utility-focused division last year. Canadian company Blue Line Innovations in January started selling its $99 PowerCost Monitor energy management device in Fry’s Electronics stores. Energy Inc., maker of the $200 Energy Detective device for measuring household current, has a partnership with Google’s PowerMeter and an investment from 3M (s mmm) to its credit. AlertMe, another PowerMeter partner, has been selling a home energy management kit for months that costs £69 ($112 USD) plus a £30 annual subscription.
Belkin has made a few investments to move more aggressively into this space this year. That includes buying a startup named Zensi, which had built energy sensing and monitoring technology. And Belkin also made “a significant” equity investment in Juice Technologies, a 2-year-old company that makes electric vehicle smart charging and home energy monitoring equipment. Belkin and Juice also said that they will co-create energy management products for the residential and small-business market.
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