No One's Hohm for Microsoft & Google

2:25 PM -- I was surprised to hear this week that both Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) and Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) are shutting down their home energy management services, PowerMeter and Hohm, respectively. They're free, the interfaces are slick and they could save consumers big bucks on their energy bills. (See Microsoft Brings a Device Hohm.)

So why the lack of interest?

It could be that consumers just don't care enough to keep track of their energy use on a daily basis. Sure, the greenest amongst us will, but for most, turning off the lights when they leave the house may be the extent of what they're willing to do.

That's probably the case to an extent, but I think consumers just need more education and more time. It's a new market and most may not even be aware of either tracking software, since both were opt in. I, for one, am interested in keeping an eye on my usage for the cost savings more so than the warm fuzzies from going green. My service gets quite pricey, and the paper bill doesn't offer any clarity.

Google and Microsoft might not have been the right companies for the job either. As I've said in the past, it's a good opportunity for cable and telecom companies to offer it as a value-added service that runs over the broadband pipe and brings in real-time, actionable data. They could do this on their own or in partnership with the utilities. A mobile app would be nice too.

Hohm and PowerMeter may have missed the mark, but residential energy management should find a new home soon.

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile

sarahthomas1011 12/5/2012 | 5:00:19 PM
re: No One's Hohm for Microsoft & Google

Should go without saying, but REM will only make it as a free service. Consumers will pay for security and perhaps some home automation, but energy management needs to be free -- and easy to use and as automated as possible.

paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 5:00:16 PM
re: No One's Hohm for Microsoft & Google

"They're free, the interfaces are slick and they could save consumers big bucks on their energy bills."


Okay - so - suppose I doubt this.  None of this stuff has any impact on parasitic energy use.  It makes that WORSE.  So, what are they supposed to do - more closely manage your air conditioning?  They can't turn off your freezer or fridge.  If there is a specific use case for this, then I would love to hear it.

Many of your readers know that I worked at AFC and still live in the North Bay.  We have a local startup in the Solar Business that just filed an S-1 (Enphase).  Now, one of the things they do is monitor all the inverters on all the panels.  Ever wonder how much a consumer loses a day when a Solar Panel is out?  Think it is more than $1?  Really?

Energy loss is big on a mass scale.  Want to do something useful?  How about finding a way of ensuring that premises are all resistive and not reactive.  How about lowering loss in transmission.  Those are WAY bigger gains than helping somebody be a better thermostat.


opticalwatcher 12/5/2012 | 5:00:15 PM
re: No One's Hohm for Microsoft & Google

I'm with seven on this one.

What are the high energy users in my house? Dishwasher, washing machine, vacuum cleaner, for some people hair dryer. What is a home energy management system going to do with these? Turn on the hair dryer at certain times of the day?

How about the heater/air conditioner? Well most people already have timers on these. To me a home energy management system is an overly complicated timer. I don't have that much time in my life to spend every day managing when it goes on and off--my timer works just fine.

If energy bills start creeping up, people start paying attention to when they turn things on and off. Houses aren't that complicated that people can't figure it out without management systems to 'help' them. Lots of people live in apartments, which are even simpler.

This is a complicated solution to a problem that already has simple solutions.

sarahthomas1011 12/5/2012 | 5:00:15 PM
re: No One's Hohm for Microsoft & Google

It's not an either-or proposition. Making improvements on premises and at transmission is important, but improving visibility into energy usage in the home is just one thing that can be done at the consumer level. It would at least help consumers answer questions about how to best utilize their AC - turn it off and on, lower the temp when gone, run laundry at off-peak times, etc., which could result in cost savings.

cnwedit 12/5/2012 | 5:00:15 PM
re: No One's Hohm for Microsoft & Google

I can't speak to resistive versus reactive -way over my head there -- but I think you've hit the nail on the head by saying there are much better ways for telcos to save power.

I don't think that means there isn't money saved by figuring out ways to reduce in-home power usage. A 10% across-the-board savings can translate into less need for new power plants.

But the key for the whole REM arena isn't just telling consumers how much power they are using but giving them tools to reduce that power consumption.

Broadband has actually increased power consumption, not only for the modems and other devices but because "always on" encourages us to leave our computers on all the time now, as well. And we have more things connected, more things charging.

I saw a spike in our home utility bills when we changed cable companies and expanded our DVR options.


paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 5:00:14 PM
re: No One's Hohm for Microsoft & Google


I agree with the idea of lowering energy use.  But tera has hit my point on the head.  There are (in my mind) 3 kinds of things that use energy:

1 - Big Ticket Appliances

2 - Lights and other lower energy users

3 - Parasitic charging/sleeping power systems

Of the big ticket items, the ONE that seems relatively manageable is the heating/cooling systems for a home.  There are really powerful thermostats that can help do this stuff (my house has zone controls with per day instructions and weekend and holiday modes).

If there was a better way to deal with the parasitics, then that would be a good thing.  Many people won't like the results on many systems that are disk based or synch up to networks.  But a better charger management scheme will not help.

It is a VERY different situation in a business environment.  There are lots of systems that might be turned off and save lots of energy.  On a home basis, just remember that a lot of the energy is used by things that either can't be changed (your stove takes what your stove takes) OR by things you can probably do without (hey do we REALLY need a digital clock in every appliance).  


PS - And Sara, why not ask a vendor of such systems how it would save a home user 10% of the electricity in a home.  All, I am trying to say is you typed something with no supporting information.  I don't think there is any real money here and am suggesting that you ask those that make the systems where they see the money.


DCITDave 12/5/2012 | 5:00:13 PM
re: No One's Hohm for Microsoft & Google

Here's why Google got out of the power management thing: It didn't get enough participation and data from the service to sell and serve ads in a targeted, profitable way. This doesn't have as much to do with power management as it does with tracking behavior, matching behavior with intent to buy and serving an ad. 

gulli 12/5/2012 | 5:00:12 PM
re: No One's Hohm for Microsoft & Google

What is interesting here is why suddenly BOTH companies drop those products together?

Is there anything that we do not know that caused them to do that?

rjmcmahon 12/5/2012 | 5:00:00 PM
re: No One's Hohm for Microsoft & Google

pool pumps is a niche market where internet control of devices might make sense.  Moving water around isn't as cheap as it used to be and pool cleaning staff change it without telling the home owner.

I monitor my PV system's power output for statisitical anomalies and to feed the irrigation system's timer algorithm (both network controlled.)

I don't need GOOG or MSFT for any of this.

None of it is main stream stuff.



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