BYOD comes home
When I was young—many eons ago, it seems—the phrase “bring your own” was attached to liquid libation. Today, it’s attached to your smart phone, your PC and even your thermostat—any tech “device.”
“Bring your own device”—and discussions about its pros and cons—is everywhere these days. According to an Ovum study released this year, three-fourths of employees in “high growth markets” (think BRIC countries) bring their own devices to work. You might think that number would be significantly lower in established markets such as Europe and ours. It’s lower, yes, but it’s still near 50%.
And, the BYOD trend is spreading beyond work to education and even consumer trends. Retail has been doing this for years, actually, in varied forms. (Think about the software that you’ve bought for your Mac, for example, that has to be updated regularly. They may not be selling you the product; instead, they are selling you the customization—the flames down the side of your Firebird, but you bring the Firebird.)
In the energy industry, the Firebird may be something like your thermostat if you’re participating in a demand response program. BYOD is a growing trend in energy efficiency technology as well. (Flames are, unfortunately, not an option just yet.)
Last month, Honeywell advertised that their wi-fi thermostats can hook up with utility demand response programs as a homeowner desires. It’s a BYOD for any market that allows it.
We spoke to Jeremy Eaton, vice president with Honeywell Smart Grid Solutions, about the BYOD trend: where it came from, what it means and why Honeywell has hopped on board.
As for where this trend came from, Eaton blames the wi-fi.
“The near ubiquity of smart phones and connected devices has created an infrastructure that consumers have invested in for a bunch of other reasons [outside of utility programs],” Eaton said. “But, that infrastructure can repurposed for homeowners and grid operators.”
In other words, BYOD for utility programs—as it is at work or with education—is about applying technology you may possess for fun to additional functions the same way my father would use leftover paint for the garage. It wasn’t chosen for that, but it fits. You have it; you might as well use it.
The thermostat has wi-fi. It may have been bought because the homeowner thought it was cool or wanted to play with a smart phone app. “But that same communication creates the capability to bring that connected device to a utility program,” Eaton added.
He admits that 20 years ago, this wasn’t really a concept utilities could wrap their minds around—perhaps as recently as five years ago, really. Back then, it was about building up and out, not thinking someone would come in with his own communications and just say, “Yeah. Use this.”
And yet, consumers are now coming in with their own devices (chocked full of communications) and saying just that.
It’s certainly cost effective and practical. It was simply unexpected (and there remain some security concerns, of course). But, Eaton says the old utility thinking of “this is mine” with programs and infrastructure is really changing to embrace the BYOD movement. After all, it does speak to the budget-conscious side of utilities.
And, even if utilities aren’t ready for it, given that it’s a trend, homeowners are expecting it.
“’Why can’t I just buy it and do it myself?’ That’s the mindset that homeowners are coming from,” Eaton added, while tying it all back to that pesky wi-fi.
“Because of that connectivity, I can now take a device that I buy at Home Depot, upgrade it over the air to make it DR capable and turn a retail product into a utility grade product remotely,” he added.
So, wi-fi and consumer expectations are merging to bring this BYOD trend to the utility. Eaton stresses that this is a positive for the utility, not a negative. Think: A whole lot of potential program participants instantly ready to go. All you have to do is go get them. And, they’re paying their own fee (buying the thermostat) to get in the game.
“Utilities can now access homeowners in service territories that wouldn’t participated have before,” Eaton said. “There’s greater penetration. And, costs, overall, can be brought down because the homeowners are bearing some of that.”
He admits that BYOD may not be all “wine and roses” for a utility. There will still be thinking and planning for specific DR needs—to pull congestion from a certain feeder, perhaps. But, BYOD does bring more options and, with open platforms (and, yes, Honeywell’s thermostat is on one), it should be easier for all of it—homeowner, thermostat, distribution system and utility insider—to work together.
But, Eaton admits that we’re still pretty early in the BYOD game, and it may take some thinking to figure out all the connections. (For example, utility DR programs once gave away thermostats as an incentive for participating. If homeowners buy their own, we need a new incentive for those programs.) But, here’s the bottom line: Those wi-fi thermostats? They’re moving off those shelves and fast. Plus, apps make it easy to program (and a little fun). So, don’t expect the trend to stall. BYOD is going to keep on coming.
“Every wi-fi stat we can make, we’re selling,” Eaton added.
Our new issue is out. Read the latest articles from industry insiders, associations and utilities by clicking this link to download a PDF of the Nov/Dec issue of Intelligent Utility magazine. It’s our totally free holiday gift to you.