Simon Anderson, Chief Strategy Officer at geo, considers the role of the installer as the rapid rollout of smart meters in UK homes inevitably leads to a demand for connected thermostats and other “smart” control systems.
Over the next five years, smart meters will be installed in 27million homes across the UK. It’s an impressive figure, but what is it that makes this rollout truly revolutionary? After all, the UK is not the first country to introduce smart meters and there hasn’t really been much of a revolution where they have been installed.
What makes it a revolution is that the UK Government has put consumers at the heart of the programme – and in doing so, energy management at the heart of the home. Instead of energy being out of sight, and therefore out of mind, for the first time every UK resident will be able to see their energy use data in a number of formats – via an energy display, energy apps, web portals – and be able to get live access to gas and electricity meter data. This last element is significant, as live data has the potential to automate other energy devices.
Understand, control, automate
Over our ten years processing and presenting energy information for consumers we have seen users go through a sequence: understand, control, automate. First they want to understand energy in the round, which energy feedback is great at. Then they want to control their energy usage using smart plugs or something similar. Quite quickly they get bored with this and want the problem taken away through automation. The smart meter rollout lays the foundation to this process.
Take smart thermostats for example. At the moment there is no feedback on just how eﬀective they have been in reducing energy consumption. But with smart meters, and in particular gas smart meters, this will change and we will be able to show people just how much money they are spending on heating their homes, and when. This will be the “understand“ element and we confidently expect this will drive an uptake in adoption of connected thermostats, the “control” element, such as our own “comehometocosy” system where simple meets smart. We anticipate this will then drive a desire for the “automate” element and integration with other functionality. For example, linking to a security system so that when the home alarm is set it also turns down the heating. And energy storage will be here soon which will benefit greatly from being integrated with smart meters and time of use tariffs.
A new breed of installer
So what does this all mean for installers? This functionality is about fixtures and fittings in the home – it is not the sort of kit you buy in the local Apple store, bring home and set up yourself. It requires installation, and not only the normal “pipes and wires” type of installation; it also requires Information & Communications Technology (ICT) skills. It is more akin to installing satellite TV than fitting a new thermostat.
“This opens up a tremendous opportunity for ambitious installers and installation businesses that broaden their skill base now and take a lead in this revolution.”
We think it really does herald the start of the smart home, but it also heralds the need for a new breed of installers with much wider ICT and customer management skills: just like Sky, there will be a growing need for countrywide smart home installers. This opens up a tremendous opportunity for ambitious installers and installation businesses that broaden their skill base now and take a lead in this revolution. To assist this, we are working with our Trade Association, BEAMA, to set out the new skills we think will be required and will be helping to devise new training courses. We expect this will all start in earnest with the smart meter rollout next year.