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How the Internet of Things is Changing Residential Energy


By Stefan Grosjean

Mobile technology has significantly changed the way people approach daily tasks – and while it began with the smartphone, the trend has now made its way into our homes. While the process is already in motion now, in 10 years it will be ubiquitous.

In fact, by 2022, the average home is expected to have 500 smart devices. Say goodbye to the laborious process of pressing coffee, and say hello to waking up to a machine-made cup that started brewing automatically 10 minutes before your alarm rang, because it was synced with your phone. That will be the new normal.

Of course, the Internet of Things (IoT) will make our lives easier – but what’s more exciting is its potential to significantly change the way we consume energy. In just one decade or less, consumers will have more control over their own energy consumption than ever before. Instead of sitting on the sidelines, the Internet of Things revolution will empower everyday people with actionable insights to help them lead more sustainable lives. Here are three predictions on how IoT will continue to change the energy space by 2025.

The end of light switches

Within 10 years, light switches will be archaic objects. Your devices will be able to automatically sense when you’re home – and how you move through the home – using a beacon in your smartphone (such as iBeacon, which was activated in iOS 7). This technology works by emitting a low-energy Bluetooth signal, which devices can detect and then use to estimate proximity. While retail stores have already begun implementing this (for example, to track how close you are to a check-out counter), we expect that the residential sector will account for the next big wave of adoption. In fact, Bluetooth receivers in your home will soon be able to interact with each other to determine your exact location through triangulation. The benefit to users? Less manual activity and smarter, more intuitive automation.

In addition to living more conveniently, we’ll also see a disruption of certain industries as a result of this shift. For example, because there will no longer be a need to drill holes in the walls to install switches, electricians will become consultants rather than installers, helping people program their homes wirelessly.

Clean, distributed energy on the rise

Climate change science is now indisputable, and we need to begin acting now to combat the human-produced effects. The good news? We’re already seeing positive signs.

Energy is becoming more distributed: It is moving from giant coal-powered burners to localized sources, like small-scale solar and wind facilities. According to the EPA, energy-generating companies expect to add more than 20 gigawatts of capacity to the power grid this year alone. This is dominated by wind (9.8 GW), natural gas (6.3 GW) and solar (2.2 GW), which combine to make up 91 percent of the total additions. Furthermore, more households are installing solar panels, as prices for rooftop photovoltaic systems have dropped 29 percent from 2010 to 2013.

The challenge? We can’t program the sun or the wind based on our energy needs, which is why storage is becoming critically important. We need to understand how to store excess power when we have it, so that we avoid disasters when we don’t.

By 2025, more and more people will adopt residential energy-monitoring devices like Smappee. In fact, early adopters are already learning how to optimize their own production and consumption, becoming micromanagers of their own grids. By bringing together different measurements – from weather patterns to local energy prices – devices like Smappee can tell users when energy will be the cheapest or most expensive, delivering a truly connected service. In the future, as the need to micromanage resources becomes even more critical, this type of technology will move to the mainstream.

A shift in power – from utilities to consumers

Today, energy intelligence is largely controlled by utilities. In the U.S. alone, 45 million residential smart meters have been installed as of July 2013 – but they are designed primarily to provide data for utilities, helping them restore power after natural disasters or manage peak demand times. These “smart” meters are not smart enough to help users make sustainable choices. They lack true disaggregation, typically providing a backward-looking monthly snapshot.

As the smart home revolution marches on, more people will use devices that can detect energy consumption in real-time, down to the appliance level – independent of any utility. These devices use advanced analytics to help consumers detect hidden energy guzzlers, creating personalized recommendations for users based on data gathered from their own homes. For example, Smappee can analyze your refrigerator’s efficiency and then prompt you to upgrade to a model that will reduce your overall energy use.

Utilities will still be needed in the future, of course, but consumer-centric smart home devices can give people greater insights into how they are using energy, and how they can manage it.

With these trends in mind, I’m optimistic about technology’s potential to tackle some of tomorrow’s largest sustainability challenges. But in order to us to truly control our aggregate energy use, every individual needs to act now. We all need to play a role by taking control of our own consumption. Are you ready to take part?

Image credit: Smappee

Stefan Grosjean is the CEO and founder of Smappee, a global energy management solution. Before Smappee, Stefan established Energy ICT, a Belgium-based company that uses smart meters to deliver insights to businesses. He transformed this startup into an energy-solutions world leader for industrial and commercial enterprises and government agencies. With Smappee, Stefan aims to introduce an easy-to-use product that benefits consumers – and ultimately the planet.

Devices such as Smappee allow users to track and manage their own energy consumption, independent of any utility.

3p Contributor

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