In the weeks leading up to the Sustainable Brands Innovation Open (SBIO) finals on June 4th, where the runner-up will be decided via live online public vote, we will get to know our 11 semi-finalists. Today, meet EDGEhome™.
When two ex-Motorola executives, Scott Steele and Keith Hartsfield, relocated to Southern California, the shock they felt at their relatively high energy bills prompted them to tap their industry experience with wireless technology and consumer products to create a solution. The result? EDGEhome™.
EDGEhome, created by SBIO '14 semi-finalist Green Edge Technologies, combines intelligent whole-home control and energy management to make consumers’ lives easier by learning their behavior patterns, and in turn, reducing their energy consumption and monthly energy bills.
Once installed by an electrician, EDGEhome is integrated into the wiring of the building and uses 35 percent less copper than traditional methods, thanks to its wireless switching technology, which makes it a cost-effective solution for energy reduction. The output of EDGEhome’s accumulated data is presented via a user-friendly dashboard, which can be viewed using multiple platforms including tablets and smartphones.
Furthermore, Green Edge asserts that its product’s “learning algorithms and sensors act as eyes and ears unlike anything else on the market,” which allows the product to actively assist consumers in saving money on their energy bills.
I caught up with Steele, now Green Edge's founder and CEO, to learn more.
CM: How does EDGEhome™ work?
SS: EDGEhome delivers all the benefits of a smart home lifestyle you see on TV, through a cloud-based network of inexpensive and intelligent wireless sensors and controls. Basically, your old-fashioned lights and outlets are transformed into highly intelligent networked sensors. So you can do cool stuff like turn on your lights from your smartphone, but as you live in and interact with your house, EDGEhome learns your habits, patterns and behaviors. Based on your lifestyle, EDGEhome recommends changes to help you live your life more energy-efficiently. You’ll also be able to ask EDGEhome to actively manage energy on your behalf. For example, EDGEhome has the intelligence to sense when a smartphone or laptop is fully charged and turn off the charger for you.
SS: We’re constantly adding new capabilities to our platform, but our core offering took about a year to get from ideation to Underwriters Laboratory (UL) certification, FCC approval and market launch.
CM: You highlight EDGEhome's affordability — what’s the estimated payback for the average family? When can consumers expect to see savings?
SS: We believe that smart home adoption has historically been impeded by complexity and expense, so we purposely created EDGEhome to be simple and affordable. The primary benefits of EDGEhome are realized through the time savings, comfort and peace of mind it delivers. With that said, EDGEhome can reduce an average monthly electrical bill up to 20 percent and pay for itself in as few as 7 years.
CM: Is this only available for new design and construction? Installation seems as if it would be complex if needed post-construction.
SS: No. We’re starting with new construction, as EDGEhome provides a lot of benefit to builders in terms of reduced construction costs, lower environmental impact and improved new home marketability. But EDGEhome is purposely built with input from electricians and consumers to also be an easy retrofit in an existing home. Any homeowner will be able to enjoy the smart home lifestyle and energy-management benefits EDGEhome delivers.
CM: Will you eventually try to enter other markets (commercial, institutional)?
SS: Yes. Our vision extends to delivering benefits across many markets. Our ability to proliferate inexpensive, intelligent wireless sensors and controls will enable some amazing new capabilities. Higher education, health-care, eldercare — there really are no limits to where we can add value.
CM: How large is the smart home energy-management market?
SS: We believe that every home should be a smart home. Last year, there were close to 1 million new home starts and 132 million existing homes in the US alone, so the market is pretty significant. Markets and Markets recently forecast the US home automation and controls market to be worth $48 billion by 2018.
CM: What differentiates EDGEhome from other smart home management systems?
SS: One big difference is that a homeowner owns EDGEhome, so there’s no monthly fee. We also provide an unprecedented level of monitoring and control, down to an individual socket in an outlet. The thought we’ve put into helping builders reduce their cost and environmental impact is also pretty unique.
Between the costly, complex high-end home automation solutions and the low-end plug-ins available at a home improvement store, we’ve defined a market hungry for simple, affordable smart home living. And, important in the context of sustainability, we provide energy-management tools and capabilities that are unmatched in the market.
CM: How large is your team? How have you grown since you started in terms of staff size and capability?
We currently have an extended team of about 25 people. We have a seasoned leadership team that enables us to do a ton with a relatively small number of people. So whether it’s inventing and patenting a new wireless protocol, turning up a high-volume manufacturing line with a leading global manufacturer, or extending smartphone user interface expertise into the smart home, we’ve had the skills and experiences to make it happen. Lately, we’ve been hiring sales and operational folks to help keep up with our growing demand.
CM: What have been your biggest challenges?
SS: Talking to builders and consumers about a disruptive technology has been a challenge as a lot of pre-conceived ideas about smart homes exist, and when you start talking about our unique ability to sense the shape of an electrical wave, eyes tend to glaze over. So, we talk a lot about use cases now. Wouldn’t it be great to turn all your lights off from a single switch when you’re rushing out to see a movie? Wouldn’t it be great to be able to better manage your kid’s video screen time? Wouldn’t it be great to turn off that forgotten curling iron from the airport? Or, for a builder, wouldn’t it be great to eliminate switch legs? As with any innovation, communicating our value is a challenge, but we’re making great progress.
CM: Any key partnerships?
SS: We’ve been in discussions with a wide variety of major single and multi-family homebuilders, smart appliance and HVAC manufacturers and adjacent brands. We’re close to announcing a partnership with a major solar energy provider and a major HVAC manufacturer.
CM: What are your goals?
SS: Short term, we’re focused on growing our whole home energy monitoring and control solution with input from homeowners, builders, electricians and channel partners. We figured out the whole home electrical stuff first because it’s the hardest, but we’ve designed EDGEhome to easily integrate with, and expand to include, other functionality. So, longer term, we’ll be snapping in things like water control and content management.
CM: So why SBIO?
SS: We love what SBIO stands for as a showcase for solutions that positively impact people and the environment while proving commercially viable and scalable. That’s one way to sum up the value of EDGEhome, so we think it’s a great fit, and we’re honored to participate.