This past week, I had a great meeting with Powercom, a company offering Smart Grid and smart metering implementation. Powercom is one of ECI’s partners for smart grid, as we complement each other when we offer smart solutions for operators and utilities around the world. I met with Powercom in ecity, our unique demo facility, addressing the residential and business end-user experience. In ecity, ECI showcases all our platforms and solutions, and demonstrates how they translate into real services and applications to the end user. To this end, we are implementing the whole concept of smart homes and businesses, and Powercom is one of the companies supporting this effort. But what made the meeting “great” is what I learned:
- Unlike what I thought, I still pay a flat rate for my electricity, independent of peak or slow hours. I like to think that I am conscious of the environment and that threw me off. So I’ve been waking up at 6 am to do the laundry for no reason?!?!
- For the end-user, smart home means smart usage, really. With smart home, I can find out how much electricity I am using in real time. So then I can make an intelligent decision of whether to sleep with the A/C on or off (probably off).
- Smart Grid also means that utilities have better control over electricity theft. Powercom showed us some real-time and historic data of an operator in India, who was experiencing major differences between the “master” supply of electricity (i.e., the electricity they were providing a certain city), and the “actual” usage (i.e., how much was actually being used – and billed – from end-users). With real-time data in hand, they found out that a contractor had run a cable and was syphoning out power, and that there was major bribery and corruption within its own ranks, which enable people to use electricity without paying.
- When you connect the smart home and smart communications, we get a real connected and empowered consumer. For example, with a smart home and a reliable and secure communication link, I have control over my whole home. I can decide what tariffs or plan suit me best, and to buy energy at low cost and sell back at high rates. The consumer becomes a prosumer!
- With loads of data comes great responsibility, if I may paraphrase Uncle Ben or Voltaire (depending on your cultural references). If this real-time data is available, I do expect telcos and utilities alike to take great pain into protecting this data. If I do travel, and my power consumption drops to almost nothing, I’d rather not have someone poking around my usage to know that I am not home.
The bottom line is that the connected and extended home comes in many formats. Yes, I would like to get my content in my home and work computers, tablet and cell phones, etc. But for me, the connected home goes beyond entertainment and convenience – it means increasing my quality of life. With the technology available to us today – smart home – I can control more, faster and farther way. Sure, the entertainment is nice. But I am not losing sleep over it. My pain point relates to my family’s safety and comfort, and my ability not only to afford it, but to understand it and make it work for me. It cannot be something out of science fiction. It needs to be real.
A dream? Not for long. If you build it they will come.