Smart home energy management device shipments to exceed 30 million units in 2016, says IMS Research

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By eeNews Europe

By 2016, annual shipments are projected to be more than 30 million units, as the smart metering infrastructure develops, relevant legislation comes into force, a range of retail channels develop and managed services become more widely offered.

In the past three years, almost 60 million smart meters have been deployed – with almost 20 million including a ‘HAN gateway’ (home area network – typically ZigBee) to enable connectivity between the backhaul AMI (typically powerline or RF mesh) and in-home devices, such as in-home displays (IHDs).

Between 2012 and 2016, IMS Research forecasts that 300 million additional smart meters will be shipped, with a third of these including an integrated RF ‘HAN gateway’. Lisa Arrowsmith, principal analyst with IMS Research explains, “A key argument for the inclusion of a HAN gateway in smart meters – aside from enabling connection to an IHD – is to enable more sophisticated pricing tariffs, such as dynamic pricing, to smooth demand peaks and avoid firing up the most costly power plants. This offers the potential for ‘smart’ devices, such as thermostats, appliances, and electric vehicle chargers, which can be automated to run at times when electricity is cheapest.”

In some countries, legislation strongly supports the use of ‘smart’ devices, even going so far in some cases as to define the pairing process. In the UK and the State of Victoria in Australia, government entities are also supporting the deployment of IHDs. Unfortunately, many smart meters that have been installed to date do not feature a HAN gateway to enable connectivity to in-home devices. Even where this additional hardware is present, many utility companies have not enabled it. In many cases, even the inclusion of an activated HAN gateway can offer little value to consumers, aside from enabling connection to an in-home display. Currently, dynamic pricing tariffs or demand-response programs are few and far between; where they are in place, consumer experiences have varied. Yet utility companies’ plans for activating HAN gateways are multiplying, as is the development of more sophisticated pricing tariffs to take advantage of smart meter deployments. Still, widespread availability across many countries is still some years away.

Where HAN gateways are activated with defined pairing processes, retail channels are expected to develop for associated devices such as IHDs or smart thermostats. In the meantime, companies are deploying ‘smart-ready’ devices. Examples include ‘smart-ready’ electric water heaters and other appliances, requiring an after-market communications module that consumers themselves can connect (reducing the cost of the basic device and increasing flexibility). Additionally, a range of devices are being developed, which can be used across multiple segments of the market. A good example is the Nest thermostat, which is available via retail channels and uses Wi-Fi to enable advanced scheduling and remote control; but it also includes ZigBee, which could make it a viable product for demand-response programs in the U.S. and certain other countries (although currently utility customers are not using it for this function).

Further, some companies are launching energy information display systems (either IHDs or gateway-based services) which can connect to the AMI network where the infrastructure is installed, enabled, and able to pair; but they also include meter clamps to enable whole-home energy consumption information to be measured where access to the AMI network is not available; and smart plugs to measure independent device-level consumption data. Often, such systems are being deployed as part of managed services by a wide range of companies including ISPs, cable operators, and security providers. Many such companies see remote home management as the next phase of expanding the range of services they offer to customers to increase average revenue per user and reduce customer churn. Such companies will help drive the market for smart home energy management devices, to over 30 million units in 2016 alone.

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