Monday, 18 January 2010

Apple moves into smart energy management

Apple ICT companies have been seizing on the opportunities in the smart meter/grid market over the last year.  Examples include Google’s  PowerMeter energy management software, Microsoft’s Hohm energy management tool, Intel, which demonstrated the concept for a home energy management dashboard at the Consumer Electronics Show this year, and many other devices and solutions have started to appear. 

(Google has even gone one further by stepping into the energy market.  It was reported at the beginning of January that the company had set up a subsidiary called Google Energy and had applied to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to be allowed to buy and sell electricity on the wholesale market).

Anyway, Apple has now joined the energy management fray.  According to Patently Apple, the company has filed a patent for a Smart Home Energy Management Dashboard system.  It’s based on HomePlug Powerline networking, which turns power outlets into a conduit for audio, video and data.

Apple’s patent adds a means to manage the power that goes to individual devices, so that equipment can be turned down or off when not in use.  The flowchart below gives an indication of how it would work.

image

This is becoming an increasingly competitive market with lots of companies clearly recognising the opportunities for home energy management solutions.  It must be a good opportunity for Apple, given its growing reputation beyond IT into entertainment and hence a better claim to manage a range of home power requirements. 

Given the size of the market opportunity and the class of companies competing we’re bound to see more patents in what will be a fiercely competitive space.

© The Green IT Review

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