There is potential for smart home devices to provide us with valuable information for how we live. There are technologies hitting the market at a reasonable price point that are sophisticated and consistent enough to make these smart home devices investments worthwhile. Right now, smart thermostats seem to be the most common product – and competitive – with brands such as Nest (https://nest.com/), and Ecobee (https://www.ecobee.com/), leading the pack.
See comparisons at: http://www.toptenreviews.com/home/smart-home/best-programmable-thermostats/
Nest inc. claims “Since 2011, the Nest Thermostat has saved over 8 billion kWh of energy in millions of homes worldwide. And independent studies showed that it saved people an average of 10-12% on heating bills and 15% on cooling bills. So in under two years, it can pay for itself.” It is a little optimistic to think this device will save middle-class individuals and families an impactful amount of money, but low-income families can benefit from potential cost savings.
There are up and coming water monitoring devices as well. Fluid(http://www.fluidwatermeter.com/) is a startup that looks to have promising technology and easy implementation to start tracking your water usage effectively. The interface has users create “signatures” for the various operations in their home (shower, washer, dishwasher, etc.) in which the device can pick up on the water flow patterns associated with these operations, and track them for each use.
Where these smart home devices can make a considerable difference is at scale, when implemented in millions of homes across the US. Puget Sound Energy is offering a $75 credit with the purchase of Nest. These devices can be part of a considerable feedback loop in tracking our energy and water usages at the individual home, neighborhood, and city scale. They give homeowners control over their decisions; the products they buy and the activities they engage in. They translate those decisions in to a measurable understanding of how we consume water and electricity.
Utility companies can benefit from this as well. Consumers continue to want to track their consumption as it relates to price, and there is potential for utility companies to piggy-back on these company’s technology and data collection networks. Privacy is always a concern, and consumers should be given the choice to hand over their usage history to utility and smart device companies, or keep it private. Overall, I think the coming years will show that these smart devices are saving energy and water at large scales, and are providing utility companies and cities with the knowledge to be more responsible and responsive in how we consume our electricity and water.
Articles and Sources:
1: “Homes Try to Teach Smart Switch” Steve Lohr, NY Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/23/business/energy-environment/homes-try-to-reach-smart-switch.html?ref=businessspecial2
2: “Switching on intelligent energy tracking at the CNET Smart Home” Bryan Bennett, CNET: https://www.cnet.com/news/switching-on-intelligent-energy-tracking-at-the-cnet-smart-home/
3: “FLUID Is A Smart Water Meter For Your Home” Christine Magee, TechCrunch: