Just when I thought I had a good handle on what my smartphone and its apps do, I found a new wrinkle. But more than the app, it was where I found the app. I went to one of our local paint stores to help my wife pick out some paint colors for our house. The paint store’s technologist, no salesperson here, had an app for my phone. This app was a new tech toy that replaced paint chips, brochures and tons of other traditional material. I couldn’t resist.
I downloaded it, all 180 MB of it. When we got home, it was game on. I opened the app and followed the instructions. It had me take a photo of the wall and then select harmonizing colors. The app produced a visualization of the room with the selected paint color including a wide selection of complimentary colors for trim and such.
If our choice turned out to be too light or too dark, no problem, a click of a button and the app would change accordingly. What if a complete change was wanted? Another click took care of that. Once everything was coordinated, the app told the store what to supply and all of this was super user friendly.
What really got my attention was that the paint store had all this digital technology available for its customers. It got me thinking about our own industry, but in reverse. Our customers have a lot of smartphone energy management technology apps available, but how many of us are aware of it? They can be found under energy savers in the eco-friendly or green apps category of the apps store.
Customer Monitoring Systems
It turns out the customer’s side of the meter is a pretty technically savvy place, especially in the prosumer segment. Smartphone apps provide the customer a lot of energy tracking abilities, and their complexity ranges from super simple to extremely sophisticated and everything in between, but they all have one thing in common: They’re user friendly.
On the simple end, one app I found has the user define the appliance they are interested in studying. It asks the user to estimate the amount of time the appliance runs, and asks for some basic rate information. The app calculates the average daily, weekly or monthly cost for operating the appliance. It can also go shopping with the user and tell them how much the specific appliance will cost to run.
There are other apps that have more intelligence built in to define phantom or vampire loads. Vampire loads are interesting. Many computers, TVs, printers, and such are still energized after the off button has been pushed. The only thing that is deenergized is the power light, but I’m getting off subject. Let’s get back to the mainstream energy monitoring systems.
These complex smartphone energy management apps require equipment installation by certified electricians, but the actual setup is pretty easy with videos available online. They include sensors and connect with Wi-Fi communications and professional installation. These systems are wired into the user’s breaker panel and take advantage of crowdsourcing. They use machine learning for many functions.
Schneider Electric’s Square D has an app called Wiser Energy that takes advantage of advanced digital technologies. It’s designed for a smart home and monitors the home’s energy usage interfacing with Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Phillips Hue, Wemo Insight, Kasa HS SmartPlugs and others.
There are also commercial and industrial (C&I) energy management systems. Amazingly many of these C&I systems are compatible with smartphones and other mobile devices along with desktop computers—customer choice. This adaptability is a result of combining machine learning, cloud-based computing, and data management systems.
I’m sure some folks are asking why would a customer invest in systems like this? Consider the prosumer. They have rooftop solar and other distributed energy resources. Other customers are driving electric vehicles with bidirectional charging technology. These customers are growing in numbers and they need to know the power coming and going to the grid. These systems also allow them to monitor the system when they are on the premises or away.
Another consideration is the increase in time-of-day rates. These apps are ideal for autonomous load shifting. Let the technology take care of the heavy lifting. It goes back to the old adage, “If you have to ask the customer to change their behavior, chances are they will not do it.”