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Microsoft Seeks Ad Revenue with Hohm Energy Management App

Product Manager: 'If a consumer receives a recommendation to replace windows, he or she could find the system offers up local window vendors in the area ...."


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Microsoft has finally entered the energy management game with the new Hohm (as in ohm) application. And it doesn’t look very interesting, at least not yet.

The press release touts Hohm as “an easy-to-use tool that helps consumers lower their energy bill and reduce their impact on the environment.”

Four utilities are involved in the project, so at first glance Hohm appears to be a significant step toward demand-side management – allowing consumers to monitor and control energy costs by tapping directly into a smart grid.

But Hohm is not that.

Instead, the first iteration is merely an educational tool to enlighten consumers on energy usage. “Right now we’re focused on personal conservation, helping equip consumers with the tools they need to do their part to save energy and money,” says Troy Batterberry, product unit manager, Microsoft Hohm.

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And Microsoft’s play? Advertising revenues!

Microsoft is on a tear to increase revenues from online advertising. CEO Steve Ballmer in October 2007 said that advertising would become 25 percent of the company’s business within a few years, and that figure is rising.

So it’s not surprising that Batterberry tells CE Pro: “In the short term, we’ll focus on contextual advertising. In the longer term, we’re focusing on demand-side management.”

Hohm leverages Microsoft’s Bing search engine, as well as the Microsoft Advertising platform.
Batterberry tells CE Pro:

When consumers receive their personalized energy savings recommendations they could be served up advertisements powered by Microsoft Advertising platform for relevant local vendors and/or products. For example, if a consumer receives a recommendation to replace windows, he or she could find the system offers up local window vendors in the area and coupons/rebates on energy efficient windows.

Hohm (http://www.microsoft-hohm.com) is not yet live, but based on screen shots in the Microsoft press release, here’s how it works:

  • Enter zip code
  • Answer various questions like the size of your home, year built, age of water heater, type of thermostat
  • Select your utility company, provide customer number and the amount of your last bill (this feature available “in the near future” for users whose utilities are participating)
  • See historical data on your energy use
  • See a list of ways to save energy, with estimates of how much you’ll save per year: Insulate the floor ($191), replace incandescents with CFLs ($112), have your ducts professionally sealed ($299)…
  • View your “Home Energy Report,” which tells you how much you would save if you implemented all of the above.
  • Browse through Microsoft’s other energy-saving solutions to learn things like configuring your computer to hibernate and using Energy Star roofing materials when re-roofing.

Will Consumers flock to Microsoft Hohm to research ways to save energy? Will CFL bulb manufacturers advertise on the site?

Is Hohm just a late-comer to the party, trying to rival Google’s PowerMeter?

Does Hohm really offer anything new or compelling to utilities?

From the Hohm press release:

Using Microsoft Hohm can help utilities meet the increasing regulatory requirements for energy conservation by promoting utility conservation programs with customers. Utilities can also leverage Microsoft Hohm to encourage customers to reduce or spread their energy consumption during peak periods. Microsoft Hohm helps utilities demonstrate their environmental responsibility.

Microsoft does note that its “vision” is to be more than just an information source, and that demand-side management and other smart energy solutions are on the road map.

Read CE Pro’s Q&A with Troy Batterberry, product unit manager, Microsoft Hohm

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  About the Author

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. Email Julie at [email protected]

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