App could turn phone into remote control for your home

Two years after developing a free app to help consumers monitor and reduce power use, DTE Energy is testing an upgrade that could […]

Two years after developing a free app to help consumers monitor and reduce power use, DTE Energy is testing an upgrade that could help you automate your home, and turn your mobile phone into a remote control.

The Detroit utility — through its joint venture partner Powerley— plans to make its enhanced Insight app, along with a new device that interacts with the utility’s advanced meters and a new thermostat, available as early as next year.

While there already are several devices and apps designed to help automate homes, this one, from DTE, aims to do so more affordably and by linking the system to your advanced meter so you can see exactly how much energy you are using (and not using). It also moves DTE — as well as other utilities, which Powerley also is working with — into the home automation business, a potential source of additional revenue.

DTE doesn’t yet know how much it will charge for the thermostat, but it expects to use efficiency incentives, which could make the final cost significantly less than what it would cost to buy commercial products on your own that do the same thing.

Using the upgraded app is just one way for consumers to save energy — and money.

Other opportunities include turning off and unplugging electronics that aren’t being used; sealing air leaks and insulating walls, attics and floors; managing heating and cooling with more efficient equipment and programmable thermostats; installing energy-efficient windows, and replacing lights and appliances.

MICHIGAN’S ENERGY FUTURE

The upgraded Insight app, along with the additional equipment, allows DTE customers to not just monitor their power use so they can manage it, but also plug in thermostats and other smart appliances and devices, including lights, to automate their homes.

“Powerley, basically, is at the next phase of DTE’s Insight solution,” Powerley’s CEO Manoj Kumar said. “It was launched with the vision to bridge the smart grid with the smartphone. The first step was just getting an appreciation of real-time power consumption, which the app does.”

“What we’ve done now,” he added, “is redeveloped the entire stack — the hardware, the software, the app — to take it from talking to the meter to connecting the meter to the rest of the home, and each of the endpoints in the home to really give you an intelligent home.”

To make the system work, Powerley retooled and enhanced the device that connects with the advanced meters, what it calls the Bridge. The new Bridge, which looks like a small white box, is wireless and designed to connect with a variety of commercial home automation devices.

The new Bridge connects via Wi-Fi. In addition to DTE, Kumar said, Powerley is working with other utilities, including Consumers Energy.

For now, DTE said, it is seeking about 500 homeowners to test the device.

But the utility said when the tests are complete, it plans to make the app, new Bridge and thermostat available to everyone.

Originally published on the Detroit Free Press.