A transformative technological wave is about to hit your home, your business and our everyday life.
In 1950, science fiction writer Ray Bradbury penned the prescient short story “There Will Come Soft Rains”, about a house whose autonomous appliances go on working long after the human homeowners are obliterated in a nuclear war.
Right now, everyday appliances and devices, with digitized communication apps flowing information directly into the electrical grid, are on the cusp of going mainstream.
Bradbury’s futuristic idea is grounded in a coming reality. Appliances talking to one another, accessing and processing oceans of data in the “cloud,” and using the information to manage everything from how much electricity is used, when that electricity is cheapest, to having your toast ready when you wake up.
Consumers and the appliance industry have begun to embrace the concept that appliances and mechanical devices must be equipped to instantaneously communicate with users, with other appliances and with utility company sensors via wi-fi to maximize efficiency.
“Connected” appliances have internal Artificial Intelligence electronics, able to integrate information from various sources and sensors inside and out of the home or business, able to utilize the information instantaneously to operate safely, efficiently, and less expensively.
Left home but forgot to shut off the stove? Want to schedule a clothes washing when you’re not home? Want to tap into alternative energy sources to heat your home during the winter and cool it during summer? The “connected” house will handle all of these circumstances.
Similarly, common equipment like computers and industrial machinery in factories will soon be able to interact with multiple sources of info and the utility grid. Benefits for businesses are largely in the economic arena, as energy-hungry industrial machinery will be interactively scheduled with the local utility company to run overnight or off-peak, saving real money based on differential time-of-use energy rates.
Timing power use to low-demand periods will save 10 percent or more on energy bills. And connected factory machinery will interact with their users in communicative feedback loops, providing instant information on production, associated costs, materials used and pricing.
On the electronics side, companies are gearing up for the big push to connectedness, which is generally dependent upon smart sensors and wi-fi. Firms like e-Sight Energy, with clients in 58 countries already offers connective energy management software to reduce energy consumption, costs, and carbon emissions across eight major business sectors.
The overall energy management system (EMS) sector, including software, devices, and applications is expected to grow from $32.41 billion in 2016 to $76.75 billion by 2021, at a compound annual growth rate of 18.8 percent between now and 2021, according to think tank MarketsAndMarkets.
Finally, the utility companies need it to happen soon. With the electrical grid in America aging, fragmented and stressed, and the cost of new infrastructure in the hundreds of billions, the utilities are turning to innovative ways to hang on. Connectedness will help.
TREND FORECAST: Within the next few years, connective, sensory and multi-communicative electronics and appliances will become commonplace. Utility companies will find value in better incentivizing off-peak and Direct Response power usage. Utilities’ ability to directly interact with consumers, appliances and machinery, using smart meters for homes and businesses, while developing more agile electric grid technologies will enable them to take advantage of distant, large-scale electric storage and dissemination.