The arrival of the truly connected digital home is one of the most anticipated events of the coming decade, promising tremendous opportunities across multiple markets. With stakeholders as diverse as consumer electronics manufacturers, connectivity solution providers, governmental agencies, utility companies and semiconductor suppliers, it is not surprising that there is a diversity of views on which direction the digital home should take.
Current stakeholders are looking to maintain existing business models, while new entrants see the connected home as an opportunity to create new revenue streams with products and services. Expect the digital home to be a battleground for years to come.
Many essentials, elemental building blocks are required to achieve the connected digital home. In the smart energy realm, the shift from mechanical meters to electronic meters is well under way.
Adding remote communications and automated service applications is the popular view of smart energy. The next envisioned frontier is the implementation of time-of-use plans, based on existing infrastructure and generation facilities. That limited vision, however, misses the opportunity to revolutionize the entire system, from power generation and distribution to effective energy consumption management.
"Smart meters will allow you to actually monitor how much energy your family is using by the month, by the week, by the day, or even by the hour," President Obama said in October 2009 during a speech in support of Recovery Act funding for smart grid technology. "Coupled with other technologies, this is going to help you manage your electricity use and your budget at the same time, allowing you to converse electricity during times when prices are highest."
That's a good starting point, but it will have no real impact on efficiency or consumption rates. Without fundamental energy generation and distribution innovation, consumers' behavior is unlikely to change in any significant way. Standardization and dynamic pricing are required to make it worthwhile for energy providers and consumers to monitor usage at so granular level.
The current, monopoly-driven infrastructure, however, is so inefficient that energy measurement and monitoring provide little opportunity for savings.
To achieve the benefits envisioned for the smart grid, full standards-based deployment is required.
A fully deployed smart grid will create a competitive energy service environment, with multiple providers and dynamic pricing, much as the telecom revolution has broadened customers' options over the past 25 years. A standards-based approach to supplying consumers' energy needs will drive investment in next-generation technologies and business models oriented to demographic profiles that match the efficiency generation profiles.
For example, people who work from home and consume a majority of their energy during the day may be offered an attractive package from an energy distributor partnered with a solar power generation company.