Archive

January 20, 2023

Browsing

Held annually in Las Vegas, CES is unquestionably the most famous and influential tech show on the planet.

With the pandemic still hanging around the world last year, its 2022 appearance was a shadow of its former self, attracting just 45,000 people – down from its pre-Covid high of 150,000 – with dozens of exhibitors ramping up their on-floor presence ahead of the show was cancelled.

This year’s event, happily, attracted significantly more attendees, reaching the 115,000 mark, according to the event’s organizer, the Consumer Technology Association.

After logging nearly 80,000 steps, attending over 35 meetings, and spending many hours on the show floor during my five-day stint, I can attest that the event lived up to my expectations.

There were interesting products and solutions, running the gamut from wireless TVs for your toilet to urine sensors that can monitor your kidney health, VR headsets to the latest electric vehicles; There was literally something for everyone.

Putting those product categories aside, I was looking to see what inroads the industry has made in smart home energy management. Over the past several years, some companies have tried to broaden the definition of a smart home to include the ability to manage electricity use as part of their sustainability efforts to reduce carbon and fossil fuels.

In late 2021, I embarked on a long journey into my home to test the theory that smart devices — and ultimately smart appliances — could reduce my electricity use and, most importantly, my electric bills.

A year after upgrading my 1,700-square-foot condo in San Jose, California, with a host of devices specifically designed to monitor my electricity usage in precise detail, the results were surprising and ultimately disappointing.

How do I upgrade my home with smart energy management devices?

As the saying goes, you can’t manage something until you can measure it, and this is important in the field of smart energy management.

Fortunately, there are some ways to accurately measure power consumption. If you’re building a new home, many homeowners opt to install smart energy electrical panels that connect to the home network and provide detailed information on electricity usage to appliances and outlets.

Legacy Electrical For homeowners with legacy panels, a product such as Schneider Electric’s Visor Energy System is a more economical alternative to replacing the entire electrical board. However, you’ll need a certified electrician to install it because the unit gets embedded behind an existing panel.

schneider electric sensible energy system

Wise Energy Home Power Monitor | Image credit: Schneider Electric


Wiser Energy uses machine learning to check all the power you use in your home. It can identify appliances that are on and off, and its intelligence can even identify major appliances and power usage down to the outlet level. I’ve been using it since late 2021, and it helps me determine which devices in my home are in “always on” status, like the refrigerator.

I’ve gone a step further and used several Kasa Smart Wi-Fi power strips to help me dramatically reduce so-called “ghost” power (also known as “vampire” power), because Most devices waste power when they are not on. use or even discontinued. Ghost power is estimated to account for around 20% of all residential energy consumption, so it is a significant phenomenon.

I’ve installed four Casa Smart Wi-Fi power strips in key areas like my bedroom, den, and office, allowing me to automatically power down and power these areas on at specific times in the morning and at night. Plus, these power strips are Amazon Alexa-compatible, so I can wake them up and turn them off via spoken word.

Smart appliances were the next major upgrade.

Despite a lot of momentum classifying the smart home at a higher level, many consumers have been reluctant about upgrading their major devices to “connected” models because the perceived benefits outweigh the costs.

It’s worth mentioning that it cost about $7,000 to upgrade my entire kitchen and laundry room (refrigerator, oven, dishwasher, and washer/dryer) with the latest connected models from Samsung and LG.

For the mainstream consumer, the convenience of remotely changing the refrigerator’s temperature, being notified of when the filter needs to be replaced, or how many times the refrigerator door has been opened, is worth a lot of cash. .


Sure, the ability to remotely see inside your Samsung refrigerator with its integrated indoor camera to figure out when you need to buy milk when you’re already at the grocery store can be helpful. Nevertheless, the fact that most appliances have a life cycle of more than 15 years facilitates consumer behavior that these in-home machines do not upgrade until they fail.

Strangely, smart appliance makers haven’t aggressively used appliance intelligence to change consumer behavior. Neither LG nor Samsung’s Smart app will advise users to delay doing their dishes or laundry until early morning or late evening, when utilities like Pacific Gas and Electric in California offer less-expensive time-of-use (TOU) plans. offers.

TOU plans are available in California, Arizona and Massachusetts, with scores of other states coming in the coming years. TOU plans are widespread in Western Europe and Asia, and it is only a matter of time before these offers become ubiquitous in the United States.

Appliance apps lack energy provider integration

Connected device manufacturers have a lot of work to do in this area. Suggesting to postpone doing dishes or laundry with a general message about saving money isn’t enough. A great smart home appliance app should be able to connect to my energy provider account so that it can provide specific cost savings based on my behavior and routine.

For example, let’s say my LG dishwasher tells me I’ll save 90 cents by delaying using it until after 9 p.m., which could translate into savings of several dollars a month or a year. In that case, I imagine the behavior would change quickly. Sadly, this capability is not integrated into the LG and Samsung Smart apps.

The Schneider Electric Wiser app provides me with typical kilowatt-hour (kWH) costs for appliances at the zip code level. Yet, it is not directly tied to my utility account and does not provide the personalized messaging needed to change consumer behavior. This situation is a substantial missed opportunity for all parties involved.

On the bright side, the Home Connectivity Alliance formally announced its interface spec at CES 2023, which should provide greater interoperability between individual devices, including paving the way for how connected solutions work in the real world for the consumer. Can provide energy and cost savings. hope springs eternal.

Will smart energy upgrades to my home save me money?

With 2022 now in the rearview mirror, I could do some “behind the envelope” math to figure out the effect. As mentioned earlier, the results were both surprising and disappointing.

First, the good news: Despite the scorching heat in the Bay Area in 2022 and “staying” with friends and relatives more often in 2021 versus last year, when I lived more or less in isolation, my overall electricity use was about 3.5% lower.

I attribute much of this to the elimination of phantom power, but my more efficient intelligent appliances, which I installed in October, also played a part. One notable example: FTC.gov rates the cost of a new LG washing machine for a full year of use at $13 compared to $38 for the older 2007 model it was replaced with.


Today’s new equipment is dramatically more affordable than the products available 15 years ago. If I pro-rate the savings related to those new appliances for a full year, I could see an even more dramatic reduction in total electricity use in 2023, potentially reducing my annual electricity use by 10% May come This is really a big deal.

But here’s the bad news: Despite that power cut, in 2021 through 2022, my actual power bill climbed About 18%, from $2,508 to $2,954 in 2022. This type of news will reduce the skepticism of smart home energy management.

Yes, California is to blame, as it has some of the highest electricity rates in the nation, despite regularly taking advantage of less expensive TOU plans.

While some may mildly spin this result because it could have been much worse if I hadn’t made all these upgrades to my condo, it’s not the type of message that will be successful with most consumers, as they View the upgrade as a means. In fact now to save money from their expenses.

In the final analysis, my main conclusion is that this underscores how seriously I should consider moving out of California.

Other notable sightings at CES 2023

A few other product demonstrations caught my attention and were worthy of being called out during my five-day stint in Las Vegas.

lenovo thinkbook wireless dock

lenovo thinkbook wireless dock

Image credit: Synaptics


Synaptics, one of the major human interface “component” technology leaders in the world, announced a new capability that Lenovo has used to release a completely wireless docking station, the aptly named Lenovo ThinkBook Wireless Dock .

With the potential to feature seamless, cable-free 4K display connectivity, this capability will resonate with work-from-home users who hate cluttered desktops.

EV Battery Management

Infineon Technologies and Newtron Controls, as shown in my on-site interviews, demonstrated new technology designed to optimize overall battery management and consumption in the EV field.

Given the scores of control systems in the average EV, this capability will find wide appeal by electric car makers looking to optimize as much as possible in a highly coordinated, synchronized manner without sacrificing functionality or safety.

schneider home

Schneider Electric unveils its innovative, sustainable home energy management solution, called Schneider Home.

Schneider Home Sustainable Home Energy Management

Image credit: Schneider Electric


Consisting of a home battery for clean energy storage, a high-power solar inverter, a smart electric panel, an EV charger, connected electric sockets and light switches, this attractively designed solution monitors energy consumption by individual appliances Uses an app to manage and decide how to prioritize power during an outage.

While it lays the groundwork for lower electricity costs by taking advantage of solar energy stored in local batteries, its associated app still provides functionality based on individual account linkage with the local energy provider, rather than guiding consumer behavior at the device level. ready to monitor. Nevertheless, it is a good step in the right direction.

material product display

Finally, it was good to see the Matter smart home inoperability initiative making an appearance at CES 2023.

Unlike last year’s CES, the Matter product demos, which promise to allow smart home devices to work together without strict allegiance to Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple HomeKit, were on the show floor and behind the NDA sessions. Was visible in both the shows. ,

Unfortunately, MATER-compliant products are still not available at retail, but that should change in the next 60 to 90 days.