This is really good news.
Very powerful companies and small innovative startups are getting into a big battle over a nascent product category. If past is prologue, the companies will scrap and fight to build market share. The big will buy the small. Better products will be built and costs will be cut. The use of these products will skyrocket.
That's good news for the usual suspects, such as investors and lawyers. There is good news this time around for the rest of us: The product category is in-home energy management. Not a bad foursome from the heavy hitter's department -- Cisco, Microsoft, GE and Google-are involved.
Sustainable Business reports that this week Microsoft introduced Hohm. The product, which is available for free in beta, is intended to interface with smart meters being introduced by utilities. Hohm will provide suggestions on conserving energy, such as use of programmable thermostats and re-caulking windows. Users will either provide their usage information to the system upon which the suggestions will be based or get recommendations based on local and national averages.
There is a tremendous amount going on in the sector. ON World has released research that suggests there will be 20 million homes using energy management technology by 2013. The release mentions the big players and smaller firms such as EnergyHub, Greenbox, PowerMand and Tendril. eMeter, which announced its Energy Engage platform this week, is another entrant in the crowded field.
Commentary in the ON World press release suggests that the area will get hot because of the green movement and directives from government to cut usage. The release provides a good deal of interesting background on the early evolution of the nascent category. Some folks who follow the sector think that a bubble may be forming. Earth2Tech's Justin Moresco starts from that premise and runs through the complex details of the developing market.
Bubble talk notwithstanding -- bubbles can burst and kill a segment -- this is rare good news. The bottom line is that shaving even a couple of percentage points off the total amount of energy used by a home, multiplied by millions, will do great things for the environment.