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Microsoft Kills Hohm Energy Management: Whither Energy Dashboards?

First Google kills PowerMeter, now Microsoft drops Hohm. Does anyone really want to monitor their energy usage?


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Question: How does your energy usage compare to others in your area? Answer: Who cares?

Nobody really wants to sit around examining bar charts of their energy usage. Google made that determination recently when it killed its PowerMeter energy monitoring application, and now Microsoft is dropping its own solution called Hohm.

That’s not surprising. When it was launched in 2009, Hohm product unit manager Troy Battery could not provide a compelling case for the new service in a Q&A with CE Pro.

We followed that interview with a story titled Microsoft Hohm Off to Rocky Start and another called Microsoft Hohm Still Silly Even with Actual Product.

Blogging about the discontinuation of Hohm yesterday, Microsoft explains in so many words that nobody was using the “service,” which was mostly a Web site with tips on how you can save energy, based on an onerous set of questions you answer about your windows, furnace, appliances, energy provider, first-born and and so on.

Somehow, though, the company drew this conclusion from the eternal beta test: "Microsoft Hohm has helped demonstrate the critical role of information in helping people and organizations improve how energy is generated, distributed and ultimately consumed."

Even when Microsoft added an actual product to the mix – the PowerCost Monitor and WiFi Gateway, which connects to the meter – nobody seemed to care that “charts and graphs make it easy to track consumption patterns and see changes in real time.”

So did Microsoft and Google prove there’s no demand for energy monitoring? Probably so, but we are likely to see more and more vendors showcasing their bar graphs and pie charts and other lovely pictures demonstrating that you used more electricity this week than last (probably because you plugged your old refrigerator in the storage room, when you replaced it with a new energy-efficient model for the kitchen).

Consumers don’t care about their energy usage patterns. Now, tie that information into utility demand-side management programs and some home automation so the pool pump (always the pool pump) doesn’t run during peak rates, and you may be on to something.

Meanwhile, Microsoft is "focusing our efforts on products and solutions more capable of supporting long-standing growth within this evolving market."

That, and Zune.

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Who cares?




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Article Topics

News · Blogs · Home Automation and Control · Energy Management · Microsoft · Hohm · Powermeter · All topics

About the Author

Julie Jacobson, Co-Founder, EH Publishing / Editor-at-large, CE Pro
Julie Jacobson, recipient of the 2014 CEA TechHome Leadership Award, is co-founder of EH Publishing, producer of CE Pro, Electronic House, Commercial Integrator, Security Sales and other leading technology publications. She currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. She's a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player currently residing in Carlsbad, Calif. Follow her on Twitter @juliejacobson.

12 Comments (displayed in order by date/time)

Posted by 39 Cent Stamp  on  07/01  at  07:04 AM

There is no demand for time travel monitoring either. But… if someone would create a product to monitor it…and leave it alone/alive… someone may have a use for it… some day.

They are killing these initiatives before anyone even knows what they are/do. The masses don’t just change a life time of energy usage/conservation behavior over night and they certainly are not lining up to monitor it yet. Some people are though. More will join them.

They treat these things like television shows. Not enough paying attention? Kill it and run another reality show in its place.

Zune.. lol Exactly.

Posted by Jason Knott  on  07/01  at  07:14 AM

To play Devil’s Advocate here… I would argue that “most” consumers don’t care about tracking their energy, but that doesn’t not mean all consumers do not. The failure of Google PowerMeter and MS Hohm could actually mean that energy management will continue to be a niche market that integrators will be able dominate… just like home control.

Posted by Julie Jacobson  on  07/01  at  08:52 AM

Agree, Jason. A Google or Microsoft can’t just give homeowners a bunch of data. Something has to be done with it—by an integrator or the utility or consumers themselves. Google and Microsoft only offered charts. Yawn.

Posted by Bradley Elliott  on  07/01  at  09:44 AM

Lutron RA2 and HW QS has the best promise of integrating some of what google and MS did.  Data is fine to show what’s going on but consumers don’t want to think about “energy management”, it’s this the whole point of “automation”... Thus my opinion of Lutron button controllers ability to turn “all off” or “house off” commands…. yes this comes at a price but if you want to really save dollars this is one of the right ways to do it.  Their integration of HVAC and 15 amp appliance controllers, I see the ability to soon integrate some of the fancy graph data…. it needs to just be an email bi weekly, this is what you spent last week, this way the month is projected to be, etc etc.

Posted by Jon Smirl  on  07/01  at  09:55 AM

Bradley’s observations correlate with what I am seeing. Monthly aggregate data is useless.  Devices/homes need low cost energy tacking built into the individual loads.  Then when you get a $800 electricity bill you can go back through the details and figure out why. Accidentally leaving a bunch of lights on over a vacation can cost $100. “House off” commands are the low hanging fruit. Power monitoring does not have sufficient value to be a standalone feature.

Posted by Mark Hershey  on  07/01  at  11:46 AM

Never even noticed Hohm existed. I monitor total AC consumption in my Homeseer / AMX home automation system. Nice charts and graphs that I rarely looked at. Until…one day an Excessive Usage trigger fired and sent me an E-mail. Bad motor start cap in the HVAC condenser. Probably saved me a compressor and certainly shortened the time it would take to notice the fault. Energy monitoring CAN be useful if you actually do somethig with the data.

Posted by Roy Perry  on  07/01  at  01:00 PM

The only entities who benefit from this are the utilities. They don’t want you to be able to compare billed usage vs actual usage. Xcel Energy cut off my data feed to MS-Hohm in January. Guess they don’t want scrutiny. Oh wait a minute - isn’t that what energy management IS? Scrutiny of your energy usage?

People will figure out how to use it if they have it. If they don’t have it, they can’t use it.

I saved $300 per year by shutting off 380 watts of 24x7 load that I never would have found without a real time monitor. Turn something on - see the graph jump - turn something off- see the graph fall. This is not rocket science.

Posted by Tuck  on  07/02  at  05:34 PM

But, but , but how is the left going to save the world if we don’t have these tools to be greener than a John Deere? Lol.

I use TED coupled with cinemar products for real time usage. Pretty handy. Started more a “cool” factor but over time it’s actually a money saver.

.39, sooo funny “like a tv show”. Lol. True.

Posted by Harald Steindl  on  07/03  at  02:03 AM

Maybe the answer is a short as it is simple:
People dont want to know it because they feel that they cannot do anything with this info anyhow.
Maybe humanity came down to a point, where there needs to be a text box with “now, do you want to conserve energy after you know how much you waste” with a nearby OK & CANCEL button.
Everything else is too complicated. Is Steve Jobs guilty? wink

Posted by Tavis Schriefer  on  07/03  at  05:34 AM

I believe consumers are becoming more aware and willing to save energy, especially when they can see how it saves them a noticeable amount money as well. However, most will not spend the time necessary to compile and analyze the data then forming an action plan.  This needs to be the function of devices themselves.

Posted by Nora  on  07/05  at  08:56 AM

It’s “WHITHER” in this context. Unless you mean energy dashboards are withering?

Posted by Julie Jacobson  on  07/05  at  08:58 AM

Can I claim that I was trying to be clever?

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