Adrian Tuck, CEO of Tendril, answered all your questions about their cool energy saving devices.
Tendril is a provider of residential energy management systems. They recently launched their Tendril Residential Energy Ecosystem, or TREE, which is a platform that is empowers folks to manage their own energy consumption. So read on below to see how it works and what they have planned next.
Q: Can you go into the specifics of what TREE does? For example, does it allow thermostats and recharging devices to operate during the utility's off-peak hours? (by dana1981)
A: The Tendril Residential Energy Ecosystem (TREE) is a complete end-to-end residential energy management system. TREE consists of both hardware (such as in-home displays and smart outlets) and software (for both utility back-end office applications and a consumer Web portal).
The TREE enables unprecedented insight into your home’s energy usage. TREE provides real-time information on energy consumption, and has the ability to do things such as predict your next bill or benchmark your consumption against other households like you. This is behavior changing information unlike anything we’ve seen before. And, with TREE, you can also take charge of your energy consumption and set controls on various devices and appliances within the home.
So, for example, if you live in a place like Texas or California, where variable and peak pricing schemes are becoming more common, TREE will alert you when the price of energy is on the rise, so that you can make more informed decisions on where to set your thermostat or what appliances to run. If you knew that running your washing machine at 4 p.m. on a peak pricing day was going to cost you as much as 50 times more than if you ran it late night – you’d be more inclined to wait. With TREE, you can also set rules such as the “washing machine” rule, so that it will not power on when the price of energy at that moment is high. This is what TREE is all about, giving knowledge and power to consumers that they’ve never had access to regarding their home energy consumption.
TREE is also networked back to your utility, so you always have real-time two-way communication and knowledge of what is impacting your energy usage.
Q: It seems quite easy to get the system working with thermostats and individual outlets, but what about integration with large appliances? Do any manufacturers plan to join the ZigBee Alliance and integrate functionality into their products? (by teej)
A: Good question. White goods manufacturers are working to develop ZigBee smart energy profile compliant appliances. We can expect to see these in a few years’ time. Imagine that you are able to program your dishwasher, for example, to figure out automatically the cheapest time overnight to operate and wash your dishes. Or figuring out the real-time financial impact of lowering the temperature in your refrigerator by one or two degrees. We’re not quite there yet, but the industry is moving in this direction. And, with TREE, these smart appliances will be able to seamlessly integrate into your home network.
Q: What are the differences between your different consumer products? (by jessg)
A: We have a number of in-home products, designed for any type of consumer, from the non-technically savvy to the networking guru. The core in-home TREE components include:
- Tendril Insight: The in-home display that provides real-time information and visibility into energy consumption. In addition to seeing real-time pricing and consumption information, the Insight also allows consumers to set rules, predict their bill and communicate with their in-home network.
- Tendril Volt: An electrical outlet that can be mounted over and used in place of a standard home outlet to monitor the energy efficiency of any electrical appliance or device. Advanced functionality of the Volt allows it to learn the behavior and power of your devices and electronics when you are using them, and when you’re not.
- Tendril Echo: Extends the range of a Smart Energy network for large areas and provides access to hard-to-reach places.
- Tendril Transport: An IP-to-ZigBee gateway. TREE also supports third-party smart energy devices.
- Coming soon will be Tendril SetPoint, our smart, seven-day programmable thermostat. It will not only have the all of the functionalities of smart thermostats on the market today, but you will be able to see the real-time cost and environmental impact of raising or lowering the temperature.
- Tendril Vantage: consumer-facing software which allows households to manage their consumption and in-home network via a Web portal, mobile device or, for those without broadband access, directly on the in-home display itself.
Q: If you had to recommend just one of your consumer products, which one would it be and why? (by Alejandro)
A: Well, the more components of TREE you have and the more you are able to network your home, the more impact TREE will have on reducing your overall financial and environmental liability of consuming energy. With that said, the centerpiece of TREE is the in-home display, Tendril Insight. We’ve designed the Insight to be a ubiquitous part of people’s lives – it not only has the ability to show your energy usage in real-time, but it’s the hub of the home where you can set controls for your other smart devices and predict your bill and receive text messages from your utility. We’ve also added features such as ambient lighting, so it will pulsate red if your consumption is particularly high or the price of energy is rising at a particular point in the day.
What you may find interesting is that in many cases, your utility is going to provide the basics for free, such as an in-home display and/or a smart thermostat. This will allow consumers to be involved at whatever level is comfortable for them, but also be able to simply and cost effectively add additional elements to better network the home and scale accordingly.
A: We are about to announce a major rollout with our first utility in the coming months. We are far along in pilot testing with four others that we’ll be announcing later this year as well. And, we are in the labs or in advanced talks with a further 15, all of which represent upwards of 50 million households in the U.S.
Utilities have a number of reasons to consider Tendril. First, in many markets, capacity is constrained – and no one is buying smaller TVs or fewer gadgets. It’s a classic example of supply and demand, and in many cases it’s very difficult for a utility to build a new power plant – both from a cost and a “not in my backyard” standpoint. California is a great example of severe capacity constraints and strict regulation on where and what types of power generation facilities can be built.
Second, in cases where utilities are rolling out variable pricing or pre-pay, they need a way to engage the consumer in this process to make it work successfully. It’s much cheaper for a utility to roll out solutions such as TREE than to bring online or operate a peak power plant.
Third, in competitive markets where energy providers are competing for your business, TREE is an attractive proposition to enhance customer satisfaction.
Finally, all utilities right now are struggling with bill shock. It’s a real problem for them, and the tools that we are providing will go a long way in informing consumers about what they are actually consuming in real time so that they can make changes if necessary.
Q: Are you anticipating that in the future a consumer and utility could use a system like TREE to allow a plug-in hybrid or electric car charging system to communicate with the utility provider and recharge the battery during off-peak hours? (by dana1981)
A: This is an interesting question. Utilities are in the midst of having the conversation about what they are going to do when everyone wants to plug in their car. It’s a real problem for them, as many markets are already capacity constrained to keep up with current electricity demand. This is a great example in how TREE not only benefits the consumer, but is increasingly becoming a necessity for utilities to better manage demand and impact consumer behavior.
To specifically answer your question, TREE is designed to address these needs. We’re open and extensible and when the time comes, you will be able to plug your car into a Tendril smart outlet and be able to get information and control its power charging just as you would any other networked appliance within the home.
Q: Are the Tendril products strictly for electricity? Are there any plans for similar functionality with gas or water use/systems? (by teej)
A: Right now, our focus is on electricity. The rollout of smart meters in many markets across the country has allowed us to move swiftly here and make considerable impact. We do have plans to expand into gas. Many homes, especially in the colder weather states, use natural gas for heating and we are already exploring technology and solutions to do for gas what we are currently doing for the electricity market.
Over time, we see Tendril as a ubiquitous part of consuming any energy resource, whether it is electricity or gas, or renewable fuels like solar, wind and water.