January 21st 2013
As we take on a new year, we wanted to look back at some lessons learned in 2012 and graph how these lessons will shape the energy management landscape in the coming year. We’ve learned many valuable lessons over the years and thus embraced the guiding principles we’ve seen work and which we’ve adhered to ever since:
- Be humble about our ability to pick the killer application and focus instead on building an open platform that allows everyone to innovate and create an unlimited number of killer apps.
- Focus on the consumer because surprising and delighting customers is the key to energy business transformation and success.
- Incorporate data and analytics to create value for all participants.
- Focus on cloud computing as the emerging dominant force in computing architectures.
Of these four lessons, one theme we’ve seen consistently holding true and shaping the future is that open platforms always win.
Though closed platforms may be easier — and many companies start off with this approach because it is easier – we believe long-term success is dependent on an open platform. Though open platforms are harder to build, it is only through an open platform that 3rd party developers can innovate and build the applications that will help ignite consumer excitement about controlling when, where and how they use energy.
One of the critical components to our profitability was opening our platform, which now has over 500 registered developers serving the needs of different kinds of customers. For us it’s incredibly important to engage with developers, which is why we opened up our APIs and have hosted many hackathons. We’ve seen first-hand how the developer community can drive new revenue and unexpected revenue streams for our technology. Many of the tech giants like Amazon and Salesforce realized early on the importance of engaging with the developer community, and having an open platform like ours allows us to work with virtually any developer.
Catering to a broad set of individuals is also crucial to our next theme — focusing on the consumer and, more specifically, that one size does not fit all.
Our energy provider customers serve a broad range of unique consumers. They have unique lifestyles, unique values, unique technology capabilities, unique homes, unique families…the list goes on. This all means that these consumers have unique energy needs and demands.
All of our technologies at Tendril are rooted in behavioral science, and all our products offer customizable solutions that help utilities and their customers better communicate and thus better understanding each other, making home energy management a transparent and mutually beneficial process.
We constantly strive to offer our energy provider customers the best solutions to help them cater to their diverse customer base. Ultimately, customers want choice. By giving utilities the tools they need to deliver greater choice, we help create a win-win for both parties and foster a more meaningful and sustainable relationship between the two.
We’re looking forward to 2013. It has started off as a new year rife with opportunities to provide utilities with viable solutions not only found through our products, but also through applications developed by others on our open platform. As I’ve said in the past, no one knows what the next killer app will be, but we are happy to be providing the platform that will underpin the energy management creativity of the future.
December 7th 2012
When we founded Tendril in 2004, our vision was to build the application platform for the “Internet of Things”—a platform designed to bridge traditional enterprise computing with a rapidly emerging class of smaller devices. In other words, our quest was to build the “tendrils” of the Internet.
After exploring a number of markets, we selected the energy industry and decided to focus on creating the platform for the energy Internet.
We believed that technology trends, policy, and consumer sentiment would usher in a new era of energy management, and that belief was reinforced by the smart grid funding included in the stimulus bill and in a wave of DOE grants. Shortly after the bill was passed in 2009, almost every utility in America began issuing requests for proposals for smart grid projects aimed at updating their infrastructure and delivering new energy management options to consumers.
Tendril was on the forefront of this wave, building the industry’s only open platform and enabling the creation of a new era of smart hardware and software applications. This platform would enable energy management applications like Tendril Energize, along with smart appliances, EVs, and a number of other goods and services. We demonstrated the power of that platform by delivering our own hardware and cloud-based solutions to utilities—with the goal of capturing as many pilots as possible and then scale from there.
We have been able to secure major deals, including a million plus home engagement with Duke Energy and significant deployments with companies like Origin and others. But this success did not come without missteps resulting from a miscalculation as to how the market would develop.
We believed we were in a land grab—so did Google, Microsoft, and a number of start-ups aiming for their patch of earth in the smart grid gold rush. But in growing our business to $100 million invested, 40+ clients on three continents, almost 4 million households on our platform, and over 500 third-party developers building apps on our platform, we were reminded of one key lesson we sometimes forgot in our passion for our mission: the utility industry moves slowly.
We based our business on the premise that the energy industry was ready to move en masse to a smarter, more connected environment that might lead to lower kilowatt revenue in the short term, but would create a new, dynamic, environmentally sustainable energy marketplace for products and services that would be more lucrative and viable in the long term.
But as we enter 2013, we have learned a lesson. Many utilities don’t have the economic path to justify the investment in consumer energy engagement in the short term. Utilities are businesses too and have responsibilities to shareholders. If they can’t prove out the short-term ROI, then they will wait until they can or until regulations change—allowing them to invest in the future.
Our aim is to be the company that executes best with a handful of top-tier customers and not one of the companies faced with supporting perpetual pilots with dozens of utilities totaling less than 1 million homes. This is the new race—to win the meaningful deals with the most innovative and progressive utilities who are ready to go to scale. I believe that we are winning today with the industry’s leaders and innovators, and we’ll be well positioned to capture major market share when the rest of the industry is ready.
So what will Tendril do differently in 2013 based on these lessons learned?
We still believe that our vision is right. By engaging with consumers using an open platform, utilities and other energy service providers can move from a one-size-fits-all model to one where different segments of consumers engage in different ways and at different speeds, increasing customer satisfaction, revenue, and profitability and positioning the utility for the future. We believe that almost nothing about the last 40 years will help predict the next 10 and that utilities who understand this will prosper, while those who don’t will struggle.
Moving forward, we are going to focus our business entirely on that first group of forward-thinking, industry-leading clients who embrace this new model of consumer engagement and want to reach scale quickly. This is no longer a land grab to win pilots that have no end goal of scaling across broader service areas. Rather, it is about service-area-wide deployments that scale across a global industry.
What does this mean for those utilities that aren’t ready to move to a scaled deployment? It means that if you need a vendor to help you check a compliance box, we may not be right for you. But if you want a partner that will help you do a better job of taking your customers on a journey to a higher value relationship and to demonstrate to regulators that you are a respected public service provider, we’ll be there to help.
So why should utilities bet on Tendril? Because we are today an at-scale provider with the experience to get your customers engaged—and keep them engaged. Because we have a solution that can help you build a navigable path to true consumer engagement using a modern, open, extensible and secure technology platform. Because we have a track record of success that we will continue to build upon.
A more laser-focused Tendril will be profitable. Tendril has made the important step to wean ourselves off venture capital. Our great syndicate of deep-pocket investors has just given us growth capital to give the management team options for growth, but 2013 will be our first profitable year—utterly liberating in these lean venture capital times.
So I bring you a more focused and profitable Tendril. I know in my heart that this is good for our customers, good for Tendril and—dare I say it—good for the industry as a whole. We think this is a bold decision: to say less is more when it comes to our customer base; to challenge regulators, consumers, and progressive utilities to pull other utilities along the energy journey that the grid, the country, and the world needs to embark upon; to declare that the energy service provider industry can be different and engender stronger, more collaborative relationships with its customers; and to make the difficult decisions that make this vision a reality.
For those of you who share this vision, we look forward to working with you in 2013 and beyond as we challenge and disrupt the industry. We invite you to join us as we dare to think differently, leveraging innovation, courage, and the belief in what is possible.
How should you view Tendril in 2013?
• With capital for growth
• Open, extensible software platform
• Applications for energy efficiency, demand response and competitive retail markets
• Vibrant 3rd party developer community
November 28th 2012
Duke Energy just announced that the utility has expanded its My Home Energy Report program into the state of North Carolina, offering the energy efficiency initiative to 500,000 additional residential customers. The program, which is based on the Tendril Energize Reports™ product, is aimed at providing customers with a clear view of their personal energy consumption, insights on how their usage compares to that of their neighbors and ideas for improving efficiency to reduce overall energy costs.
The “My Home Energy Report” is a customized, paper-based energy usage report sent via mail to eligible residential customers. The report groups like homes of similar size, age and location (based on publicly available tax records) and compares the customer’s usage to the average home and efficient homes within the group. The report includes tips and other recommendations for reducing energy usage.
With the launch into North Carolina, the program is now being offered to over a million Duke Energy residential customers in Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, South Carolina and North Carolina, making this – we believe – the single largest home energy report program. This is a significant milestone for energy efficiency and for Tendril. With components of the program in the works since 2009, the continued growth of the initiative shows that achieving efficiencies is a sustainable endeavor – that it’s possible to engage customers in reducing consumption — and then keep them engaged. For Tendril, the expansion of the program demonstrates the scalability of both the Tendril Energize application and the Tendril Connect platform that underpins Energize.
Populated via analytics, behavioral science and building modeling embedded within the Connect platform, Energize Reports are now being produced at an average rate of one million per month, an accomplishment that we are very proud to have achieved.
We believe that there are several reasons that the program has been so successful with Duke Energy customers. One, Duke Energy says customers who use the information contained in the reports to make changes in how they use energy are saving an average of 2 percent their annual energy costs, equating to 200 kWh, according to comments made by Duke Energy in a recent webinar with Smart Grid News.
Two, the program is fostering improvements in customer satisfaction. In one of many such public quotes, a Duke Energy customer stated in a recent press release, “This is one of the most useful, practical and readily discernible reports I have ever received from a company. To be able to keep tabs on how we are doing on our energy usage is important to me.” Duke Energy has found that customers who are receiving this report have a higher level of satisfaction with the company and that the report strengthens customer engagement, Duke Energy said in the webinar. Engaging the customer in energy efficiency starts their journey, encouraging them to have greater ownership of their energy use.
Three, the home energy report program sets the stage for future expanded benefits “By encouraging our customers to take control of their energy habits, we are creating sustained energy savings that can then be counted on when we consider options for meeting future energy demand,” said Gayle Lanier, Duke Energy senior vice president and chief customer officer, in the November 19 press release that announced the expansion into North Carolina.
Four, the data management and analytics capabilities of the underlying Tendril-based solution provides Duke with a very systematic application of data integration, analysis and report generation, along with a data driven approach encompassing customer analytics. This provides a rich and highly informational experience in the personalized reports provided to Duke Energy customers – an experience designed to create a desire for more information, more interaction with Duke Energy and even better customer relationships.
At millions of home energy reports and counting, the program has covered new ground when it comes to full deployment across a utility’s service area. Tendril looks forward to working with Duke Energy as we leverage energy management programs to increase customer awareness around home energy management. We congratulate Duke Energy on the success of their program and are proud to be a part of it.
November 20th 2012
This past weekend, I travelled to New York to support and chronicle, via Twitter (#Tendril), a hackathon graciously hosted by BMW and cosponsored by Tendril and AT&T. The hackathon was focused on development of apps, mobile apps and hacks that meld the smart car, the smart energy-efficient home and the smart mobile device. The whole experience was a wake up call for me, and for reasons I hadn’t anticipated.
As I planned my trip, I contacted my best friend of many decades who lives on Long Island Sound so we could get together while I was in New York. In the past, the trip into Manhattan from Long Island was a no-brainer — something neither of us gave much thought to. She just hopped in her car or on a train, and an hour later, we were reunited. This weekend, however, transportation – or the lack thereof – was quite a different story. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, train schedules were still disrupted, and gas rationing made driving difficult.
As she tried to figure out the best way to get into the city she commented that, for the first time, she really wished she had an electric car. I found that to be somewhat ironic because the hackathon I was attending revolved around the debut of BMW i car, the car that was “born” to be electric.
That’s when the light bulb went off in my head (a CFL, of course). This hackathon was about much more than just creating cool new ways to enable a digital lifestyle where car, home and mobile devices are connected and communicating in ways that make life easier. It was about leveraging technology and creativity to achieve greater sustainability – to find new ways to reduce carbon emissions.
When the hackathon kicked off Friday night, it became clear that Hurricane Sandy featured prominently in the hearts and minds of not only my best friend, but also all of the developers in attendance, most of whom were from the New York and New Jersey area. An organization called New York Tech Responds (#NYtechresponds) participated. They, along with fellow technologists from communities such as Hurricane Hackers and Crisis Commons, are focused on encouraging development of applications to help get the community back on its feet.
In addition to getting the area back to normal, it was clear that a broader, more far-reaching concern revolved around what many New York citizens like our participating developers, climate scientists and others fear will become the “new normal” – a normal characterized by an environment where global warming and rising sea levels may dramatically increase the serious weather events like Sandy.
Those in the room came by and large to look for ways to help stem the tide of increasing greenhouse emissions – to see what they could do to help. They pitched their concepts, brainstormed together and ultimately wound up collaborating as part of teams focused on bringing their 13 new ideas to life.
The developers’ concepts ranged from apps to encourage people to eat less meat (the livestock sector contributes to green house gas emissions) to apps that leverage geo-location tools, energy management tools and device control to automatically change settings in the home as the homeowner nears his or her house. There was an app to correlate locations and costs of EV charging stations, and there was an app to enable a virtual market for micro-farms aimed at connecting local, small farmers with buyers seeking locally grown produce (food with a smaller environmental impact). There was even an app to make it easier to donate to needy people and causes via mobile tools.
Tendril awarded a prize for the best “smart home” hack to a project called EcoSave that uses a web portal to visually portray energy consumption and information on how to learn more about green energy and make more sustainable choices. It melded the benefits of Tendril’s consumer engagement applications with social media and online information sources that provide important insights on the impact of energy consumption decisions and better energy efficiency choices can have on the way we shape the world of the future.
The EcoSave app is a great idea! And it opens the door to a question I’ve been wondering about lately. Many experts who study energy behavior believe that most people are motivated by money (savings) more than anything else when it comes to improving energy efficiency. But is that because money is truly the best motivator, or is it because it’s so hard to find a quick source of information on what your energy decisions mean to the environment? If people had fingertip access to information that showed them how adjusting their thermostat by two degrees can save 2000 lbs. of carbon dioxide (and $98) per year. If they knew that replacing one bulb with energy efficient bulbs could save half a ton of carbon dioxide emission over the life of the bulb – or that if every American did this, 500 million tons of carbon dioxide entering the atmosphere can be prevented.
If everyone could do a quick “impact check” before making their energy consumption choices – or even their recycling, food consumption and other sustainability impact choices — would they change their behavior? Studies show that with little or no hardship and no major cash outlays, we could cut day-to-day emissions of CO2 in half—mainly by wasting less energy at home and on the highway. If people knew this, would it make a difference? Or are those who think that the only thing that will motivate people to cut energy use to a more sustainable level is higher taxes on fossil fuels?
What do you think?
P.S. Many thanks to BMW, AT&T and all the men and women who showed up to help improve our planet through better use of our energy resources.
October 22nd 2012
Today marks the launch of Colorado Entrepreneurial by Nature – a grass roots campaign created by a handful of entrepreneurs in our community to show support of Colorado’s start-up culture.
As an entrepreneur and longtime resident of Colorado, I’ve been constantly inspired by the hard working, hungry and creative spirit that thrives in the state. And I can tell you that as someone who has worked to build and grow a business here, this proposed network of likeminded individuals and subsequent support system will help more entrepreneurs establish and build successful businesses here.
Colorado Entrepreneurial By Nature is a fantastic idea born from the desire to foster this community through a support structure aimed at strengthening our state’s role and position as an increasingly influential hub of innovation and hard work.
I am proud to support this campaign as Colorado has proven itself time and again as a center for, as the campaign website boasts, “companies, innovators, and professional misfits who stand-fast with a united creed that ‘Colorado is entrepreneurial by nature.’”
Join me in showing your pride for our entrepreneurial community here in Colorado. Please visit http://www.entrepreneurialbynature.com/ for more information on ways to support the movement.
October 15th 2012
Earlier this month, Jesse Berst of Smart Grid News outlined how Reliant Energy has been taking customer engagement to the next level with their offering of Tendril’s In-Home Displays (IHD), Tendril Insight, to their customers in Texas.
Here at Tendril, our entire focus is helping our customers to engage with their customers so that they can achieve a wide range of business objectives revolving around energy efficiency, demand management, customer acquisition & retention, customer satisfaction and generation of new revenue opportunities.
This focus on consumer engagement was exactly what Texas utility Reliant Energy was looking for when they enlisted the help of Tendril Insight. In a deregulated market like Texas, Reliant and other utilities have to reduce customer turnover by offering unique products and services. To differentiate themselves, Reliant selected the Tendril Insight IHD, which communicates with networked smart devices, such as thermostats, smart meters and load control switches, and displays information about energy consumption, rates and cost of use.
Beginning in May of 2011, Reliant began offering the IHDs, based on the Tendril Insight but customized by Reliant, to its customers and has since seen significant amounts of interest. With a device feeding real-time information about household energy use onto a small screen, the IHD is the perfect tool for customer empowerment. The Reliant version of the IHD shows:
- Real-time electricity cost
- Current usage in both kilowatts and dollars-per-hour
- Daily energy cost
- Comparisons to the previous day’s cost
- Monthly cost tracking with up-to-date cost information
IHDs are just one option for engaging customers around energy usage. Whether it’s paper reports, an online portal, other networked devices or complete home automation, Tendril offers energy providers and product and service providers all the needed touch points to fully engage with its diverse customer base.
If you’re interested in learning more about Tendril’s work with Reliant, please join Reliant’s Mark Smith and Mark Edding, along with two of our own Tendril experts, for the Smart Grid News webinar entitled “Customer Engagement with In-Home Displays” on Wednesday, October 17th. There is still time to register here. https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/527006921
By Ginger Juhl
October 1st 2012
The Future of Privacy Forum (FPF), the Washington based think tank committed to advancing responsible data practices, today announced a first-of-its-kind smart grid privacy seal program for companies that use consumer energy information. The seal will be powered by TRUSTe, the leading data privacy management company and will be available to companies offering home energy management, remote home control or security, smart thermostats and other services that seek to access consumer energy data.
At Tendril we are very proud to have been a part of the group that helped create this landmark consumer privacy initiative and believe it represents a big step towards alleviating consumer concerns. Our work with utilities and their customers around the world continually points to a shared, global concern over data privacy, and we take consumer privacy very seriously. We recognize that much of the data we collect is personal to our consumers, and we go to great lengths to ensure that we always remain respectful of our consumers’ right to privacy.
We believe that consumers should, at all times, be empowered to make meaningful decisions about their information: whether or not it is collected, how it is used, and who may have access to it. This basic belief — that consumers are the ultimate arbiters of their personal information — is the guiding theme for our privacy program and our chief privacy platform in policy-making domains. This belief has led us to develop the following principles with which we strive to abide:
Transparency. We always strive to be transparent about the information we collect, the reason we collect it, and how we plan to use it. We believe that consumers can only make meaningful decisions about their personal information if they are provided with clear and accurate information about our data use practices. We have made a conscious effort to make our privacy practices transparent and easy to understand, and we encourage our consumers to contact us if there are ever any questions or concerns about the information we collect or how we use it. We also ensure that we have mechanisms in place that allow consumers to access and, if necessary, correct the personal information that we store about them.
Choice. We strive to provide consumers with the ability to make meaningful choices about how their data is used. The consumer ultimately controls whether or not we collect their personal information, how we will use it, and whether or not we disclose it on their behalf. We never use personal information for any purpose other than the one for which it was collected without the express and knowing consent of the consumer. We offer privacy profile settings within our product that enables further clarification of the consumer’s choices about how their personal information is shared.
Compliance. We strive to comply with all applicable laws, rules and regulations concerning privacy. Moreover, we have participated in the creation of specific Smart Grid privacy guidelines that are aimed at protecting consumer privacy to an even greater extent than existing privacy regimes (NAESB: Third Party Access to Smart Meter-based Information). We have thoroughly participated in the leading privacy and data access proceedings in the country, including in California, Ohio and Colorado. In essence, compliance with existing privacy rules serves only as the baseline for our privacy program—we strive to go beyond compliance.
Standard Practice. The personally identifying protection laws, policies, and practices to which we adhere are either consistent with or go beyond the commonly accepted privacy practices utilized for years, and in some cases decades, by the financial services, credit card, telecommunications, cellular, television, residential broadband, social network and other modern digital conveniences. These are all sacred trusts and like each of these industries, we recognize that commercial and consumer success can only come from the active protection of personally identifying information.
To learn more about the smart grid privacy program, visit www.smartgridprivacy.org
By Dan Fredrickson, Tendril Associate General Counsel