Are set-top boxes a better way to do energy management? Tendril and Hitachi will try


By: SGN Staff

By Jesse Berst


Here's the thing with home energy management. Everyone agrees that if we have the right devices in the home, we can find lots of energy to "mine," whether as permanent energy efficiency or periodic demand response.


Problem is, home energy management devices are so &@#! expensive. Dozens of companies have stranded on that shoal, running aground on high costs and slow payback. But what if you adopt a Trojan Horse strategy? What if you implant energy management capabilities into a device that's in homes already?


Numerous companies have tip-toed in this direction, trying experiments with digital picture frames and home automation gear and game consoles and home security boxes and thermostats on steroids. Now Tendril and Hitachi will make it possible to put home energy management into set-top boxes.


It's an intriguing idea in theory. However, it's not enough just to have Tendril technology inside. We still have to see energy providers step up to take advantage and software developers build the apps. Still, it's a step in the right direction. I've long felt that home energy management was not a product, but a feature. It does not offer enough convenience and enough savings to justify a device of its own.


Rather, it's more likely to show up as just another feature in some kind of home management system. I still don't know whether that central home function will come from Sony or Samsung or Comcast or Microsoft or ADT. But whoever wins the battle for the home will want to have Tendril-style energy functionality as part of their total package.


Jesse Berst is the founder and chief analyst of Smart Grid, the industry's oldest and largest smart grid site. A frequent keynoter at industry events in the U.S. and abroad, he also serves on advisory committees for Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the Institute for Electric Efficiency. He often provides strategic consulting to large corporations and venture-backed startups. He is a member of the advisory boards of GridGlo and Calico Energy Services.


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