AlertMe is the newest energy monitoring device maker to partner with Google PowerMeter, giving homeowners more information and control over how much electricity they are using, and how much they pay for it. By providing hardware that plugs into your home’s traditional electric meter and your broadband connection, British-based AlertMe now makes power consumption data available on your internet browser via the Google PowerMeter interface — if you happen to live in the United Kingdom.
The partnership between the two companies is launching first in Britain, where average consumers can buy AlertMe’s hardware and use it to track their electricity starting today. They don’t need to inform their utility, or do anything more than plug the devices — called the Meter Reader and Hub — into their corresponding sockets. Together, this equipment (see image above) costs about $113 (£69) upfront and $4.90 (£2.99) a month for online access; or a lump payment of $162.14 (£99) for the hardware and 12 months of online service.
“The equipment pays for itself in about a year,” says AlertMe CEO Pilgrim Beart, referring to the average energy savings that buyers usually see after installing the system. “Most people don’t think of this kind of purchase in terms of returns on investment, but it’s a short enough time frame that it makes sense.” (Beart will be speaking at VentureBeat’s upcoming GreenBeat conference focused on the Smart Grid on Nov. 18-19)
This is the second deal that Google has struck with a Smart Grid device company allowing it to activate PowerMeter in homes that are not equipped with smart meters — the first, announced earlier this month, was with Energy Inc., maker of The Energy Detective (TED 5000) home energy monitoring device.
In order to work in most areas, PowerMeter depends on smart meters that wirelessly beam energy consumption data to utilities and their customers. That is why Google has partnered with nine utility companies in the U.S. and Europe. But now, with the TED 5000 and AlertMe system in its arsenal, it doesn’t have to wait for smart meters to be installed to serve data to its users.
AlertMe’s online service gives its customers access to their power consumption data from any computer or device with an internet connection, including smartphones, via the personalized iGoogle portal (see image below). (Before now, AlertMe delivered data through its own web-based dashboard). In addition to toggling online options, the device maker’s customers can also build out their AlertMe home systems with SmartPlugs that take energy readings from and allow remote control over certain appliances, like thermostats.
British Gas has signed up to be the major retail channel for AlertMe’s devices. As the utility in the U.K., the company will market it to its customers as another way for them to conserve while saving money on their electrical bills. AlertMe’s Beart says the deal is a win-win for his company and the utility, with the former getting the name-brand stamp of approval from British Gas, and the latter adding to its portfolio of consumer services, the source of nearly 50 percent of its revenue.
“In a competitive utility market like Britain’s, AlertMe can differentiate one from another,” Beart said. “It’s an attractive offering encouraging people to move to a utility, or stay with a utility.”
Notably, this is the second Smart Grid news involving British Gas in as many days. Earlier today, news broke that the utility inked a deal with Trilliant to deploy its UnitySuite software, ensuring that its smart electric and gas meters can communicate seamlessly with its backend systems, home energy displays and smart appliances. While the AlertMe deal with British Gas is unrelated to this development, the two stories together indicate a shift in the utility’s business operations toward a cleaner, more efficient grid.
Smart Grid development in the U.K., where the electric grid is even more fragile and antiquated than it is in the U.S., has been slow going. But now, with its big-name utility brand on board, making significant deals with Smart Grid companies, it may be able to turn the situation around faster than anticipated.
Beart hinted that AlertMe’s partnership with Google will probably hop the Atlantic sometime in the near future, but he couldn’t be more specific, saying only, “You’ll see plenty of action from AlertMe in the U.S. next year.”
AlertMe, based in Cambridge, England, raised its first round of venture funding in June of this year, amounting to $13 million from Good Energies, Index Ventures and VantagePoint Venture Partners.
And here’s a quick visual overview of the AlertMe hardware:
VentureBeat is hosting GreenBeat, the seminal executive conference on the Smart Grid, on Nov. 18-19, featuring keynotes from Nobel Prize winner Al Gore and Kleiner Perkins’ John Doerr. Get your discounted early-bird tickets before Oct. 31 at GreenBeat2009.com.