SAP is currently building a mobile utilities solution, planned for release in Q4/2012, which allows consumers to connect with the utility, check energy usage and related costs. If you look at these use cases around account management, bill presentment and payment, outage information and service requests, they relate to good old bread-and-butter scenarios.
So what’s next? This is just the beginning.
Utilities are in a transition, everyone can see some activities like energy efficiency and demand response programs, time of use rates, smart metering and smart grids, support for co-generation and renewables, building energy storage systems or getting EV charging on the grid.
But still, the supply side (your utility) does not yet communicate well with the demand side (you and your energy consuming equipment). We are not close to a world where smart energy supply and smart grids are integrated with smart consumers, consumers being man or machine.
At the same time, there is a buzz about the internet of things (IoT) and machine-to-machine (M2M) and what this can do in an integrated view.
Let me picture 3 different future scenarios to illustrate how this relates to energy consumption and mobile technology. These scenarios could be the state in 5 or 15 years.
1st scenario: Not much has changed.
Energy prices have doubled as expected. Consumers buy low energy devices voluntarily if the price is right or if it is mandated. Most people use energy at home and for transportation when they need or want. There are less than 2% electric cars on the road. Heating, cooling, and other devices have simple on/off controls or thermostats. Utilities provide consumers access to their account supporting any mobile and web technology. The public perception of the utility company has worsened due to the steady price increases.
2nd scenario: The responsive home.
The price of carbon based energy products, especially oil, has increased more than 5 fold due to demand, events and legislation. The use of energy in general and price volatility is different now. Electricity became a strategic joker in the supply mix; time-of-use rates are standard and have a huge spread between on-peak, normal and off-peak times. During off-peak hours (11pm to 5am) there is often a surplus of nearly free energy available from renewables and co-generation. But on-peak electricity is more than 10 times as expensive as it used to be. This is not only caused by demand shortages but also by transmission and distribution bottlenecks. Electricity storage solutions are in place but costly. 30% of new personal cars are electric with a standard range of 500 km. High energy appliances for space heating, cooling, hot water, drying, pumping and alike have connectivity to receive price signals and communicate demand. Many homes have some sort of energy storage, often very simple, for example while water and space is preferably heated with natural gas, cheap off peak electricity is used to preheat a buffer. Or ice packs store cooling energy for A/C units. Overall, managing energy became a necessity and mandated in some countries. For the end user, mobile devices are the easiest way to control and monitor. People maintain schedules with energy needs, home equipment is enrolled, and alerts are configured. Utilities often provide basic mobile energy management solutions and give away some hardware for free. The home can store, shift and automatically look for ‘good deals’, only this keeps the overall cost for energy bearable. Not using any energy management systems increases the cost to the level of a monthly rent or drives you to bake, vacuum and wash clothes at midnight.
3rd scenario: The smart home.
Similar to scenario 2, prices went up significantly and energy management became key. But it was so complicated to understand and manage energy that intelligent home solutions took over. Systems for home energy management, security, communication and entertainment are converged or connected and consumer oriented. The smart home system learns and senses what the inhabitants do and related equipment is adjusted. People use mobile devices and some stationary displays to monitor and occasionally override. Toggle switches, buttons and remotes as primary controls are gone. The personal mobile device became a master key, it identifies, locates and communicates to nearly everything. For example, holding the mobile device close to the loaded dishwasher allows me to confirm the ‘finished by’ time quickly. That’s all I have to do, the home system then plans the runtime and energy needs and learns. The utility companies offer different packages of ‘smart’ energy products and services that integrate with intelligent homes and extend to electric vehicles. Complex systems run behind the scenes, but they are reliable and the end user experience is simple. For any help, a virtual or personal energy butler is consulted through a mobile device. Only geeks still understand and manage energy at homes themselves, like those people that still built computers from parts in 2010.
So what do you think? Which scenario is the most likely to happen? How does your energy future look like and what is the role of your mobile device?
SAP Industry Solution Management
And in case you have not heard of the upcoming mobile self-service solution and would like to know more, please ask your SAP contact or e-mail me (mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org) or Juergen Kuhmann (mailto:email@example.com).