The Global View

New Cisco system helps people better manage home energy

Cisco has just rolled out a new system that will let utility companies give customers access to information about their home energy use.

Part of Cisco’s recently announced Connected Grid portfolio for smart grid communications, the new Home Energy Management offering includes a home energy controller and energy management services. The system is designed to help both homeowners and businesses better control their energy bills and reduce their carbon footprints.

“Utilities around the world are moving toward a more modern, efficient and environmentally friendly energy infrastructure,” said Paul Fulton, general manager of Cisco’s Prosumer Business Unit/Smart Grid. “Cisco’s Home Energy Management Solution can be an integral part of that transition by helping utilities empower their customers to make choices about their consumption, understand the trade-offs related to time-of-use pricing, and be in better control of their energy efficiency.”

Cisco this week also unveiled several updates to its Smart Connected Buildings portfolio, including products for enabling centralised management and linking multiple building automation systems and protocols over the internet for managing energy use across both real estate and information technology.

“Business energy requirements in commercial buildings represent a large percentage of the  world’s overall energy consumption,” said Sandeep Vij, vice president and general manager of Cisco’s Converged Building Systems Business Unit. “Providing management, facilities and IT teams with clear, real-time visibility into the impact of energy flows is a first step toward managing buildings in a more intelligent way.”

Among the new Home Energy Management system’s features are:

  • A countertop display that helps people make more informed choices about their home energy use and lets them set policies and schedules for energy use based on real-time household, historic and individual appliance consumption.
  • An LCD touch screen that lets users control peripheral devices like thermostats, intelligent sockets and, ultimately, smart appliances such as refrigerators and water heaters.
  • Coordination for a variety of networks in the home, with support for associated networking protocols like ZigBee, Wi-Fi and Encoder Receiver Technology (ERT).
  • The ability for utilities and customers to coordinate on new pricing and demand-side management services, enabling home automation for energy management.
  • Hosted Energy Management Services that utilities can use to manage data from thousands of homes while integrating with their back-end applications.

Among the utilities expected to deploy Cisco’s new Home Energy Management system is Duke Energy, with which Cisco has a strategic collaboration to advance smart grid technology.

“Home energy management functionality is an important step in providing customers with an enhanced energy experience that is simply not achievable with today’s analog grid,” said Gianna Manes, senior vice president and chief customer officer for Duke Energy. “Customers want to save money on their energy bills, but it has to be easy.”

Greater control capabilities and insights into real-time energy use are seen as ways to help homeowners and businesses more easily managel their energy consumption. Cisco cites one study that found utility customers who receive real-time feedback on their energy habits can reduce their overall energy consumption by 4 to 15 per cent. Studies show that technology can promote better energy management by consumers. And a survey by Zogby International found that 74 per cent of people in the US are likely to change their energy use if they are given the technology to do so.

Cisco says its new Home Energy Controller is designed as a global solution but will be first available in North America beginning this summer.