Go home to go big: Cisco stakes claim in home energy management

Just in case there was any doubt: Cisco absolutely wants to be a household name in energy management, an aspiration supported by the latest additions to its Connected Grid and Smart Connected Buildings technology portfolio. This could be a huge disruptor for some in the home automation technology space.

Just in case there was any doubt: Cisco absolutely wants to be a household name in energy management, an aspiration supported by the latest additions to its Connected Grid and Smart Connected Buildings technology portfolio. This could be a huge disruptor for some in the home automation technology space. That's for two reasons: One, because Cisco has the chutzpah and the creativity to negotiate aggressive distribution relationships for this technology and, Two, because devices will communicate to the controller via Wi-Fi, which is an established protocol for home networks.

The gadget below is called the Cisco Home Energy Management Solution, a bundled LCD screen solution that will include services for keeping tab on energy consumption and pricing information. So, in theory, you can keep tabs on your demand. The bundle is due out in summer 2010, and the official list price is $900 per home. Aside from Wi-Fi, the controller can communication with smart meters and appliances via Zigbee and also via a proprietary protocol (Encoder Receiver Technology, or ERT) used by well-established home automation player Itron. It will also interact with so-called smart plugs -- peripherals that you can plug your existing appliances into that will send data to the Home Energy Management device. (Think intelligence power strip or surge protector.)

The device works in conjunction with a cloud service that provides remote management, integration with the utility company's back-end systems and third party applications, and aggregate usage information collected within appropriate privacy guidelines.

You can't just go out and buy this thing on our own: right now, the distribution strategy will be through the pilot programs of utility companies that are pioneering smart home energy projects, says Larry O'Connell, product marketing manager for Cisco. Although all its partners are not yet disclosed, one utility you will definitely see carry the technology quickly is Duke Energy. Other "service providers" will carry the solution; don't just think utilities, think (potentially) cable operators or communications companies.

O'Connell envisions that this touchscreen division could become the interface to all sorts of different solutions. So, for example, you might in the future use it to control your home electric vehicle charging infrastructure or for integrating renewable energy technology systems or to keep tabs on how much energy your home media center sucks up when you plant yourself in front of your home theater.

Aside from the home device, Cisco has added to its technology focused on commercial buildings with the CIsco Network Building Mediator Manager 6300 and Cisco Network Building Mediator 3.1. These are technologies that help combine and analyze information from disparate building automation systems and technologies.

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