AlertMe’s ‘huge’ UK gas deal: big data for real people

Smart energy startup AlertMe has struck a deal that could super-charge its expansion by providing its technology to the U.K.’s largest domestic energy supplier.
In an announcement on Tuesday, AlertMe — which runs a cloud-based service that monitors and analyzes people’s energy use and gives them detailed feedback — said it had been chosen by British Gas (s CNA) to provide its software to all its customers who have smart meters installed in their homes.
The utility giant has more than 15 million gas and electricity accounts around the country, with more than 10 million households on board. And while British Gas only started rolling out smart meters last year, the U.K. government has mandated that all British homes must be fitted with smart meters by 2020 to help avoid wastage and prevent unnecessary carbon emissions.
“It’s huge for us,” admitted AlertMe CEO Mary Turner when I talked to her ahead of the announcement. “The way I look at it, this is a huge deal for us, and a really innovative move from British Gas — but the important thing is the benefit it brings to the mass market.”
She said that customers would have their smart meters plugged into AlertMe’s energy monitoring service, which takes readings of energy use every 30 minutes and provides a variety of ways for them to drill down into that data. The aim is to reduce usage, cut carbon emissions and (crucially) save money — ultimately providing the benefits of big data to ordinary people in the place that’s most important to them: their own homes.
“There’s been so much talk about smart meters not really being smart, and for the convenience of the utility because they don’t have to pay to send a meter reader around,” said Turner. “But we turn that data into information and insight that’s much more relevant to the consumer.”
AlertMe doesn’t just work with gas usage, however: its platform works with a whole range of sensors and devices around the home. The ambition is for the system to become the backbone of an entire connected home, with an open platform that can deal with data coming from a wide range of appliances — electricity meters, TV sets, washing machines… anything.
We’re still at the start of a trend, but it’s been a good few months for the company. in January it announced a deal with Lowe’s to sell home energy gadets in-store (made by third parties and given the AlertMe seal of approval). And there could be another significant deal in the works in continental Europe, hinted Turner.
The Cambridge, U.K-based company, which has more than $37 million in funding from investors including Good Energies, Index Ventures and Vantage Point Capital. British Gas was already a strategic investor in the company, and had run some trials of AlertMe technology, but the deal was the result of a competitive tender put out last year.
But Turner said she saw this deal as the beginning of the company’s expansion, not its zenith — particularly as consumers look for a way to avoid the mess of standards and services that having a “smart home” entails.
“The fact that we have huge utilities practically engaging with us is a starting point, but our plan is not just to work with utilities,” she said. “We’re device agnostic and we absolutely, fundamentally believe it has to be that way. Walk around your home and you’ll have a dozen brands for all your appliances — the last thing a customer wants to do is have five or six different home hubs managing different devices.”
“Our view is that all of that will ultimately disappear.”