openpeak-openframe-home-phone-information-centerMajor smart electric meter maker Itron announced today that it has joined forces with home energy management device maker OpenPeak. Their combined technologies will help both utilities and their customers keep closer tabs on exactly how much electricity is being used, why, and how much it is costing.

Itron will be integrating OpenPeak’s line of easy-to-use touchscreen monitors into its smart meter systems. The screens will reflect data collected by even Itron’s older electric, gas and water meters. The idea is that if consumers can see exactly how much of these resources they are using, and how expensive they are in real time, they will start to conserve and save (the systems tell you exactly how much money you are saving too — providing clear and direct incentive to change habits). With a clear, digestible interface, OpenPeak’s touchscreens makes this information easily viewable and understandable, the company says.

Separate from the general data on your energy consumption, the OpenPeak monitors will also tell you how much energy is being used by your thermostat so you can choose whether to turn it up or down. It will also alert you when your utility runs a so-called “demand response” event (that is, when it has to shut down some of the non-essential power in your home to keep the grid running smoothly during peak demand periods). The only consumers impacted by demand response are those that have purposely enrolled in such programs through their utilities.

The OpenPeak and Itron systems speak to each other on common ZigBee (a set of Smart Grid standards) and wireless platforms, allowing for complete interoperability. And for kicks, the same OpenPeak in-home display can be used to connect to the internet to browse the web. The company hopes this capability will pique user interest and make the device a more mainstream part of the home.

The partnership is a good model for other meter makers and home energy management developers to follow. In order for consumers to become active participants in the Smart Grid revolution, they’ll need a simple, user-friendly way to keep track of their energy use in terms that matter to them. As is, many utilities are simply rolling out smart meters without plans to slice or dice the data into actionable formats. It would behoove them to take note of the fused Itron-OpenPeak technology — it’s one of the first examples of a seamless partnership between smart meters and practical consumer-facing technology.

OpenPeak is backed by RRE Ventures, Millennium Technology Ventures, GMG Capital Partners and a flock of well-known individuals including former Apple CEO John Sculley and former Dell vice chairman Mort Topfer. Itron is publicly traded on the Nasdaq as ITRI.

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