The three home energy management products below just failed Christensen’s “job” test. The way these products were designed assumed that the customers would “hire” these products to do fun science projects! Not surprisingly, only a small proportion of the population was interested in doing fun experiments like reading and trying to interpret or derive any useful information from hourly energy usage.
Intuitively, 1) electricity is pretty cheap, so most people don’t care much, and 2) people with big houses interested in lowering their electrical bills will “hire” a product that can do just that in a very simple way. Once again, user experience is key. Make it simple and easy for the consumer to save electricity and money--no matter how fancy, dashboards are useless if they’re not taking care of the “job” the consumer needs done.
Why Internet companies are abandoning home energy plans
By Katie Fehrenbacher
Throughout 2009 and 2010, Internet companies like Microsoft, Google and even router giant Cisco launched experimental software and hardware to help building managers and home owners monitor and control their energy consumption. While Microsoft and Google focused on consumer-facing software, Cisco decided it would build a home-energy dashboard and also sell building-energy-management products.
But now, 12 to 24 months later, all three of these players have ultimately made the decision to abandon those projects. Cisco was the latest one to jump ship, and on Wednesday afternoon it penned a blog post announcing the choice. Cisco plans to move away from both its building-energy tools, which it purchased via Richards-Zeta back in 2009, as well as its Home Energy Controller, an energy dashboard it had developed.
Little effort, little reward
First off, all of these firms were really just dabbling in and experimenting with the energy-management field. Cisco’s energy dashboard was actually a device created by Open Peak and customized by Cisco, and it was meant to be tested out in its smart-grid pilot trials with utilities. In Cisco’s blog post this week, it said after testing out the tools in its pilots that it decided it needed to evolve its strategy.
If you look at Google’s and Microsoft’s entire business lines — and balance sheets — their PowerMeter and Hohm energy web tools were minor projects. Google even launched PowerMeter out of Google.org, the company’s philanthropic arm, and actively said it had no business model for the software.
Lack of consumer interest
Ultimately Google and Microsoft shut down PowerMeter and Hohm, partly because not enough consumers signed up to use the service. The tools were free and easily available on their websites, but at this point consumers just lack the fundamental interest in spending time managing their home energy consumption.
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