Cisco Launches Smart Grid Assault, Home Energy Gadget

Just last week we noted how Cisco (s CSCO) really only had one official smart grid product on the market, which it announced in May and was basically hardened networking gear for utility substations. Yeah, well scratch that. On Tuesday morning Cisco launched its all-out smart grid assault, including a home energy management product, a hosted residential demand response type service and upgrades to its building automation programs.

Cisco’s home energy product will no doubt generate the most buzz in tech circles, and here’s what it includes: Cisco will sell a “Home Energy Controller,” which is a touchscreen energy dashboard that it will offer to utilities for their residential customers (see image). Home owners can use the device to manage and monitor their energy consumption and utilities can use the device to connect with customers, show real time pricing, and even do demand response events.

The dashboard will run Cisco’s energy management software, and is meant to be placed on a countertop. The device has both Zigbee and Wi-Fi wireless communications enabled, and can connect with smart thermostats, smart appliances, and the utility back office.

Cisco Director of its Prosumer Business Unit Paul Fulton told us that third party manufacturers in Asia would be producing the actual device, but declined to name the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) involved. When I asked if the device would be made in the consumer-focused Linksys division, Fulton said that the product was specifically made for the utility market, but that to keep an eye out for upcoming energy-focused products from the Linksys division in the future.

Along with the home energy controller device, Cisco will offer hosted home energy management services, that can be used for utility demand response residential programs (enabling the utility to turn down energy consumption of its consumers at certain times of day). Hosted energy services also includes the ability to remotely upgrade devices with the latest software

Cisco will launch the home energy controller first with utility Duke Energy, which was one of its first utility customer partners announced last year. Cisco’s Fulton tells us that Duke will be piloting the technology in a 100-home trial this summer. That’s pretty small, but shows how conservative utilities can be when it comes to trialling new technology.

Cisco’s home energy product enters a market with a whole lotta players. Silver Spring Networks has its own home energy management software it acquired when it bought Greenbox, GridPoint has its own home energy software, which it grabbed though an acquisition of Lixar SRS, meter management company eMeter launched its own energy software service, and startups like Tendril have been building businesses around this market. And those are just some of the utility-focused plays — there’s many startups (like EnergyHub and People Power) that have launched consumer-focused energy devices.

Despite the wealth of players, the home energy management market is actually quite small right now, if not non existent. Consumers aren’t directly buying these products yet, and only a handful of utilities are trialling these devices in the pilot stage. But a variety of industries, from telcos and cable operators, to utilities to startups — and now Cisco — are trying to get into the market early.

In addition to Cisco’s home energy management product, the router giant also launched a variety of upgrades to its building energy management system. That includes the latest versions of its Cisco Network Building Mediator Manager 6300, and the Cisco Network Building Mediator 3.1.

For more research on the smart grid check out GigaOM Pro (subscription required):

Moving Into Substation Networking, Cisco Seizes Smart Grid’s Low-Hanging Fruit

Google’s latest smart grid play: white space

Smart algorithms, the future of the energy industry

Images courtesy of Cisco.