Who will Control the Gateway to Utility Customers?


Google hopes it will be Android@Home for tying together home devices via Google protocols and APIs for cloud-based services, software and your favorite devices.

On May 9 2011 at Google I/O, it announced a new version of Honeycomb software, its next-generation “Ice Cream Sandwich” release, as well as movies, music, and Android accessories. This Ice Cream Sandwich will power the Android@Home framework which Google plans to use to tie together everything electronic and everything electrical in our homes.

According to PC Magazine, there are over 100 million Android phones in use worldwide from 36 phone makers, 215 telecom carriers, and more than 450,000 Android developers working to build apps to satisfy our cravings. This Android ecosystem adds about 400,000 Android devices every day.  Currently there are over 200,000 apps for Android and it took the Android ecosystem just two years to get to 1 billion installs. Today, there are 4.5 billion app installs.

What does this have to do with utility service?

Just because our utility wants to sell us commodity energy does not mean that its competitors on the horizon are going to play by the same rules.  What Apple, Microsoft, GE, Amazon, Google and others yet to come are showing us TODAY is that the future of energy will only be peripherally about energy.

Google is pitching Android@Home to sell us cloud services, devices with embedded Honeycomb Ice Cream Sandwich software, apps by the hundreds of thousands today.  Play music, store family photos, be mobile and take everything in your hard drive with you wherever you go and keep it safely in the cloud.  Use any computer, tablet, smart phone or other Android-enabled device anywhere, anytime.

Android 3.1 devices can act as USB hosts importing photos directly from digital cameras to tablets, and any other input devices even an Xbox gamepad from the ‘evil Redmond empire.’

“Ice Cream Sandwich,” the next version is to ship in the fourth quarter as “one OS that runs everywhere,” on phones and tablets.  Google plans to add new APIs to the framework to enable intelligence to be added to dumb devices.

So I repeat, what does this have to do with my utility?

You do get it, don’t you?  The competitors for utilities are not other utilities or even merchant energy developers of renewable energy or other energy services.  The competitors of the future are not utilities and their disruptive technology will not (yet) produce energy but they will turn the lights on, optimize your home HVAC system, manage its security, supervise when is the lowest cost time to run the dishwasher and do hundreds of other things we now do manually—and being human not always optimally.  They will, in short, make the utility obsolete for everything except delivering the energy we purchase or collect the energy we make ourselves and sell to the grid.

It is not quite like the Jetson’s yet, but someday Android@Home or its functional equivalent from other competitors will also shop for energy, communications, security, insurance or other commodities and services using Apps and these new competitors will aggregate customers, combine their buying patterns or desires and deliver the best deal at the best price at the right time without your active intervention.

You won’t have to yell at the kids to turn the lights off anymore!  Ah, but I’m sure there is an App for that too—it TXTs them when they travel beyond their allowed boundaries or when your car senses its teenage driver is going too fast, following too close or TXTing while driving.  BUSTED!

What will your utility say?

Most of them are clueless this is even happening and those who know can do little to stop it.  You see the power of this assault on the traditional utility business model is that it will only be made applicable to energy AFTER we have already adopted it for everything else.  Then adding energy choices to our menu of Apps will be fool-proof.  Besides what you do on your side of that smart meter is your business right?  Yes, and what you can do will be increasingly important when some of what you do causes your smart meter to run backward selling back to your utility the excess energy your home, PHEV car and other “devices” can produce.


  1. Gary,

    I would also add that these same organizations have very deep pockets to make the necessary investment without having to play by the rules of the utilities, plus they are already moving into upstream services in both generation (alternate wind, solar, geothermal etc.) and T&D in the form of micro-grids and storage.
    They will not have to wait until the apps are ready and utilities completed their upgrades. In my opinion they are going around the utilities to the customers and privatizing the high value targets to exponentially increase the demise of the utility business model (lower overall usage increases the burden on the remaining participants).
    The Oracle survey results with utilities taking a cautious approach will just reinforce the demise.

    Perhaps you already addressed this in another blog.


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