In August 2011, Cisco made a well-publicized withdrawal from the home energy management market. But this week, the networking giant announced plans to offer a new home control and monitoring panel for AT&T's Digital Life service and apparently sees a bright future in the "Internet of Things."
The Digital Life controller allows users to wirelessly manage devices connecting AT&T software with Cisco Z-Wave radios. The connected devices include everything from cameras and door locks to thermostats, moisture-detection sensors and appliance and lighting controls.
All of these "web-enabled" devices, connected in the cloud, allow home owners to monitor and control them via smartphone, tablet or PC. Cisco is providing the back-office provisioning and applications life-cycle management system.
"As more and more data and devices become connected, the Internet of Everything makes it possible for consumers to check in on loved ones, pets and energy consumption on the go," said Joe Chow, vice president and general manager, Connected Home Devices, Cisco as part of the announcement at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. "This truly is an application platform that opens up new opportunities for service providers."
Indeed the Cisco-AT&T partnership is the latest in a series of service providers entering the home security and energy management space. Verizon Communications, Time Warner Cable and Comcast have each offered bundled packages for energy monitoring and management. And mainstay security firms like ADT, Alarm.com and Vivint now have connected home systems alongside their traditional services.
AT&T’s Digital Life connected home service is currently only available in Dallas and Atlanta, expanding to eight markets in March and an eventual rollout to a total of 50 markets in 2013.
Still, home energy management remains a challenging market to crack. Along with Cisco's initial withdrawal, Google and Microsoft each made high-profile home energy exits and smaller tech firms have moved away from offering residential products.
But with the ongoing buzz in smart, Internet-enabled appliances and thermostats, such as those from Nest, ecobee and Eco Factor, as well the steady stream of energy-aware smartphone tools making their way to your favorite app store, home energy management might be actually be gaining traction. The success, or not, of Cisco and AT&T's partnership will help shed insight on what's next in home energy.