Panasonic has announced that it it is starting full-scale development of its Smart Home Energy Management System (SMARTHEMS), which will be launched on October 21 in Japan. It’s also launching AiSEG, the component which connects the electrical equipment and home appliances within the system.
SMARTHEMS has three main features:
1) It displays electricity, water and gas consumption in real-time and can also show data on solar power systems and storage batteries. For electricity, the monitor displays the current electricity and CO2 balance of the home, estimated electricity charges and power generation capacity by the solar power generation system. Data can be displayed on a dedicated monitor, TV, PC, smartphone and other displays.
2) Automatic control of compatible equipment through the ECHONET Lite protocol, part of AiSEG. Some compatible equipment has already been launched and Panasonic plans to add more from this autumn, including air conditioners, IH cooking equipment and heat pump hot water supply systems.
3) A cloud computing service can be used to download new versions of the firmware to ensure compatibility with changes to electricity rates or rating system and as new AiSEG-compatible equipment is purchased. The scope of equipment will be expanded to include electric vehicle charging facilities, lighting, security systems and home appliances.
The systems are being launched against a backdrop of increasing awareness of environmental issues and concerns about the electricity supply in Japan since the earthquake. Energy saving measures for the home have become important and it’s expected that the HEMS market will grow rapidly, helped by subsidies from the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI).
Preview: While both Microsoft and Google were quickly into the HEM market, both have long since withdrawn, citing lack of interest. That hasn’t prevented a range of companies having a go at this fragmented market. It’s unclear where control of the technology will be, but the suppliers of home appliances are potentially better placed to make it work than are IT companies, and Panasonic has the right background.
I can’t see IT companies staying out of this market altogether, though, there’s too much at stake. Pike Research says that the use of home area networks (HANs), which may well form the basis for HEMs, is set to take off, with 57.5 million in place by 2020. A partnership between an IT player/cloud supplier and an appliance company, jointly offering home area network-based solutions or entirely cloud-based home energy management, looks like a good bet for the long run.