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Honeywell and Opower team up on smart energy

<p>A trial with Pacific Gas &amp; Electric tests consumer acceptance of cloud-connected thermostats and demand response programs.</p>

Building on a partnership that first began in 2011, Honeywell and Opower introduced new technology this week that targets homeowners to join energy efficiency and demand response programs offered by utilities.

The powerhouse partnership allows customers to program and monitor energy usage through a cloud-connected thermostat with web-based tools. Utilities can leverage the program to work with residential customers to help shed energy demand, for example by temporarily controlling energy-sapping appliances when use spikes.

A program trial is underway with Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) with the more than 500 free thermostats installed to test and measure energy savings. The technology works with most any residential heating and cooling systems and connects through wi-fi networks.

By gauging customer acceptance, the Honeywell and Opower program, which is expected to run through 2014, will help PG&E test against a theory that the thermostat and app can save up to 5 percent of energy costs.

At this week's DistribuTECH event in San Diego, Justin McCurnin, global marketing director for Honeywell Smart Grid Solutions, says the company has been actively managing demand response program for more than 30 years. He said Opower's large installation base (working with more than 80 utiltiies in gathering energy consumption data of more than 15 million homes) and a commitment to big data analytics and rigorous measuring and validation of energy savings were key to making the partnership successful.

Honeywell currently has 2 million connected thermostat devices installed in the U.S. and Canada, as well as other connected home products such as humidifiers and security systems. Leveraging Opower's powerful database with cloud-connected devices can help lead to faster product development cycles for Honeywell as well as more customers being happy with their smart thermostats.

Also this week, Opower introduced a new mobile app to track real-time energy data. Built for iOS and Android smartphoes, the app compares energy use, offers tips for reducing energy and will offer ability to control devices, like the Honeywell connected thermostat.

The app brings the Opower 4 engagement platform, which includes accessing home energy reports on web portals or through emails and text messages, to a mobile device. Opower will offer the white-label, customizable service to utilities starting in July.

Targeting a mobile audience is part of Opower's larger strategy focused on consumer engagement. "Engaging customers through the mobile channel represents an opportunity to differentiate from competitors, increase customer satisfaction, and transition customers to self-service (mobile billing, for example)," said Jordan Jakubovitz with Opower’s Marketing and Strategy team in a blog post announcing the app.

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