It doesn't have to be the biggest Smart Home solution. Small steps also help the environment – for instance, an intelligent tool that helps you control your power consumption.
If you visit Ahmad B. in his old apartment in the center of Munich, you'd have no idea that he is on the road to having a "Smart Home." You climb the creaking wooden stairs that lead to the second floor, lots of Stucco covers the walls and ceiling, the rooms are 4 meters high. This art nouveau ambient is wonderful, without question. But to save energy here using state-of-the-art digital tools? In this more than one-hundred year-old house, this seems almost impossible.
But once you enter the apartment, things change drastically. On the dresser in the hallway you see a state-of-the-art tablet, in the living room you find a huge smart TV, a modern fridge in the kitchen and electronic tools in the bathroom. Ahmad's three-room apartment is a perfect symbiosis of a comfortable old apartment and a digital lifestyle. The 36-year old estimates the number of electrical devices he regularly uses in his 70 square meter apartment at "certainly 40 to 50."
In his private sphere, Ahmad is doing exactly what he advises his clients, as an independent IT consultant: He uses intelligent digital products to make his life easier, and everyday procedures easier to manage. Ahmad is not bothered that he doesn't have the complete "Gateway controlled Smart Home Platform solution" in his old apartment, as the Microsoft founder Bill Gates does in his 150 million dollar estate, Xanadu 2.0, at Lake Washington. He is completely content to first learn which factors influence the energy consumption in his house, and how he can control and limit these in real time.
For this purpose, he opens an app on his smartphone that he came across a few months back, while browsing the app store. The software is called "SmartCheck," and his electricity supplier offers it, free of charge. Ahmad calls it "my tracking tool for my home power consumption." And he is glad he downloaded the app: "During last winter, the app already helped me save a lot of power and, of course, money."
EON AG, Europe's largest energy supplier, developed SmartCheck in the spring of 2015 for exactly this reason. "Our goal was to help our customers save energy and create an easy-to-use transparency of consumption – anywhere and anytime," says Uwe Kolks, CEO at EON Energie Deutschland.
"We knew from studies that our customers want such a transparency tool," confirms Maximilian Heiler from EON Munich. Easy to understand, without any unnecessary content and easy to use: this is what our customers want. "Based on these wishes, we developed SmartCheck."
Only a few clicks on the tablet are enough to see: This task has been carried out efficiently. In a clearly-arranged and graphically-oriented design, the user can quickly understand how power is consumed in his home, even if he is in his office or on a business trip at that moment. Provided he carefully filled out the consumption profile of his household. Just like Ahmad: "It was easy - basically just like Facebook or Xing. Only here, I didn't have to enter my qualifications or hobbies, but the distinctive features of my apartment and the power consumers," the Digital Native explains.
The washing machine and dish washer, fridge and microwave, television, telephone and WLAN router. The system asked him about all the possibly-relevant, power-consuming elements, the number of people living in the household and the time periods when nobody is home. Since then, Ahmad must only enter the current meter reading, to get the precise information about his consumption. Then he loads animation into his tablet, and all the information is updated.
"Of course, I already knew that I consume approimately 2500 kilowatt hours of power per year. But nothing more than that," says Ahmad. Now he can check anytime how much electricity is flowing through his power lines, which devices consume power and how much this costs him, which is impressive for the fan of the digital world. "Then there are no ambiguities regarding surpluses or subsequent payments at the end of the year. I never liked these fluctuations that nobody could explain to me at the end of the year!"
But SmartCheck doesn't only offer a day-to-day overview of the current consumption and costs. The app also proactively helps you save energy: At unexpectedly high levels, it sounds an alarm and, on demand, also offers practical tips on how to react. "In the past months, for instance, I consumed more power than I planned," explains Ahmad. "But I was working a lot from home in the past few weeks. So it's completely normal that the power consumption is higher."
But if the user cannot explain the sudden surge in consumption, the app offers tips as to where he might be wasting power or thermal energy, for instance due to radiators beneath an open window. When Ahmad entered "old apartment" as his type of housing, he received the tip to seal the joint of his beautiful old double windows with transparent silicone. He followed this advice and his place was considerably warmer in the winter. Already in autumn, he had been bothered by a slight breeze at his dining table. "But only through the app, I learned what I can do against it."
If consumption increases, if an additional person is living in the apartment, or if the price of electricity is raised, for instance, SmartCheck has the right advice for these instances, as well: The app advises the user to pay the advanced payment at the right time, to avoid high back payments at the end of the billing period. The app autonomously calculates the sensible new advanced payment sum and sends it, if the user wants, directly to the accounting center of the power supplier.
This kind of flexibility clearly offers advantages, not only to the user, but also to the power supplier. "With the app, we can save our customers from unpleasant surprises and avoid getting angry letters," admits EON manager Heiler. This is exactly what more and more customers like about the app. The provider is recording around 10,000 new accounts per month at the moment, and the numbers are increasing. "And it's not only young people," says Heiler. "The demand is coming from all segments and regions. It represents the entire structure of EON's customers."
One reason why this new tool is so popular is that it is constantly further developed, according to the wishes and needs of the customers. The users can enter their own tips on how to save energy, and share these with others. Ahmad also already did this: "It's fun to participate, and it also makes you think: How am I actually unnecessarily wasting power, when nobody is home for longer periods of time? Since then, I always turn off my WLAN router when I go on holidays, and pull out the plug." He quickly found someone who followed his advice and did the same: Since he entered his tip in the SmartCheck app, several users have read it.