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Echelon smart grid deal addresses consumer, billing concerns

The biggest potential barrier to smart grid right now probably isn't security. Or the state of technology evolution.
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor on

The biggest potential barrier to smart grid right now probably isn't security. Or the state of technology evolution. Or even funding. These are BIG concerns, certainly, but they have been trumped by a growing wave of consumer mistrust over the true motivation for smart metering projects.

Echelon is attempting to tackle that issue head-on through a new alliance with Convergys, which is a player in customer service and billing applications for utility companies. The deal will see the two create a platform that lets their customers (aka utilities) apply pull metering data right into billing systems, creating "actionable intelligence" about usage habits. The idea is to enable the development of applications that can be used to help consumers managed their habits in a more informed manner.

Great idea! But this got me wondering: How many of you look over your utility bills -- power, water, phone or otherwise -- carefully on a regular basis? That's what I thought.

I really think this sort of usage intelligence is really important and something to strive for, but I question how much money smart grid players are really willing to invest in getting people interested in taking an interest. I can tell you with certainty that none of my in-laws will care one iota about an application like this, my side of the family is a 50-50 proposition, and I (personally) will forget to do it unless it shows up in an alert on my mobile phone.

Strongly encourage consumer education as a sharper focus for the smart grid technology community over next two years. Otherwise, all of the money you're spending on alliances like this will be wasted.

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