Nowadays, Digital transformation is a reality in many segments. Technological advances — along with the challenges and demands presented by society and the continuous search for greater efficiency, better results, new business models in products and services — have been driving this transformation process.
This process of breaking with traditional business models directly impacts the lives of sectors, segments, companies and consumers at their various levels. There is no lack of examples of tradition-breaking amid the most valued companies in recent years: streaming and content services, logistics, food, digital banking and new payment systems, travel, retail in general, lodging and hospitality, among others.
At the same time, society is increasingly connected, digital, engaged and active, having at its disposal access to any content at one click and defining new paradigms and trends — as well as having an active role in this process of transformation in an involuntary and natural way.
Among the impacted sectors, we can highlight the utilities segment, especially the electric sector, which still operates according to a traditional business model, with strong regulation in the chains of power generation, transmission and distribution. The companies in this sector take the energy generated to the consumer’s home, but don’t act within the residence, stopping their interaction on the energy meter. Thus, the sector has its performance targets and return margins defined through tariff revision. Given this scenario, innovation and digital transformation are important competitive differentials.
In this context, on the one hand, there is the search for higher productivity indexes and increased operational efficiency — and, consequently, for better technical and financial results —, simultaneous to the compliance with regulatory indicators. On the other hand, there is a need to change the mindset associated with the business in order to identify, create and explore new products, services and business models. These opportunities, often located beyond the conventional boundaries of the sector and materialized in the energy meter, allow unregulated businesses to be created, as well as consumers at their various levels (residential, commercial and industrial) to be engaged and retained.
One of the boundaries to be expanded relates to the concept Beyond the Meter. In this concept, companies must explore opportunities within customers’ homes, crossing the energy meter boundary. Thus, the concept suggests that companies in the electric sector question themselves about what products, services and business models can be created to meet the needs of customers within their homes, companies etc.
Taking a residence, for example, companies should ask themselves what products and services can be created to meet consumer demands in reducing and managing energy consumption through connectivity between household appliances. It is necessary to think about how to provide opportunities for new tariff models, how to improve thermal comfort and ambience, among other possibilities. Therefore, it is essential to explore all the possibilities generated by technological evolution in Internet of Things (IoT), sensors, communication, computational intelligence and connectivity, along with all the potential provided by the concepts related to a smart grid.
The fact is that there already are companies from other segments, such as Apple, Google, Amazon and Tesla, that are already thinking about products for the convenience and connectivity of homes. Examples are the temperature and ambience controllers of NEST, a company acquired by Google in 2014; Powerwall energy storage systems, manufactured by automotive company TESLA; smart voice assistants, such as Alexa, from Amazon.
These and other innovations in non-intrusive energy measurement and control technologies, electric mobility solutions and consumption management allow, when integrated, the consumption and use of electricity in consumer units to be mapped. This enhances the benefits related to energy efficiency, distributed generation and energy storage.
In this context, one of the outstanding projects under development at Venturus is Projeto Casa do Futuro (House of the Future Project). It aims to design, develop and integrate several solutions for a residence of the future. Based on the Beyond the Meter concept, this project develops, applies and tests many hardware and software technologies in order to create integrated solutions to meet the needs of a residence — considering aspects such as climate control and ambience, security, personal assistance and management and remote monitoring. Many of these innovations are already a reality, according to the following examples:
- Climate and ambience: with the Microclima, it is possible to manage the residence’s rooms by monitoring the temperature, humidity and pollution of the environment (CO2), variables that have a direct impact on the quality of life. It is possible to provide control of air conditioning, light modulation and ambient sound by exploring new interfaces with users such as text messages or voice commands. In addition, there are plans for the creation of an integrated energy consumption management module, enabling the end user to reduce energy expenditure for these devices.
- Location: the device called Indoor Positioning allows the identification and location of individuals in the residence through a multimodal solution, with technologies based on sensors, IoT, voice recognition and imaging. The solution can also be used to offer other services, such as access control and security.
Example of Google’s Nest smart thermostat that, according to the company, can reduce residential energy consumption from 10% to 15%.
Another concept presented in the house that uses location and ambience is the Follow-Me Radio, an app that allows the user to listen to their music while walking through the residence. The solution automatically redirects the audio to the room in which the person is located. Through voice analysis, the solution can also identify the emotional state of the individual (joy, sadness, anger or fear) and adjust the lighting or even the soundtrack;
- Personal assistant: House of the Future has a personal assistant, Before you leave, created to inform the resident’s routine and professional activities, integrated with schedules and other mobile apps. The solution identifies the time when the user is leaving the residence and informs them about important events for the day, such as a meeting or the expiration of a bill. The service may, in the future, include recommendations based on other elements, such as weather or traffic, helping the user not to miss an important appointment, pay a bill or simply remind them to bring their umbrella;
- Multimodal management: all the functionality presented above can be connected to the management of House of the future, done through different devices, such as smartphones, digital TVs or personal assistants, such as Alexa. In this multimodal solution, the user can, for example, view history data in a dashboard on their digital TV and modify the state of the house by voice command through Alexa. When not at home, the user can also interact with the home through their smartphone, viewing important information or sending remote commands.
The House of the Future project represents a practical application of the Beyond the Meter concept. All integrated applications are available to the electrical sector and can be viewed through an augmented reality platform. These applications seek to investigate and identify new products and services that can be explored (by themselves or jointly) to bring new perspectives to the energy sector.
Initiatives such as the House of the future can be the differential for many companies in the electric sector, finding new ways to meet the real needs of customers. For companies in the sector, it is important to explore the opportunities in this new market, as companies from other segments are already beginning to develop solutions for this field. Thus, it is not a matter of just discovering new paths, but of making a future that makes sense for the electric sector and for the changes in the life and loyalty of its consumers.
Learn about this and other Venturus initiatives in the electric sector in https://www.venturus.org.br/