“Hey Alexa, Can You Manage My Energy?”

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  • Jan 24, 2019

Smart speakers are the fastest growing segment of technology. Utilities are taking notice: are they the next tool for managing energy usage?

We really think customers are expecting us to test and play in that industry,” Will Ellis, who directs customer programs at PEPCO, said during a panel at the Annual Conference of the Association of Energy Services Professionals, taking place this week in San Antonio. “We want to test it out and see what type of interactions our customers expect.”

Moderator Essie Snell of E Source articulated what everyone knows intuitively: smart speakers are quickly becoming ubiquitous, according to The Smart Audio Report:

  • Sixty-seven percent of smart speaker owners say they’re now using their smart speaker as much or more often than they did in their first month
  • Fifty-five percent of smart speaker owners say they wouldn’t go back to life without a smart speaker
  • Sixty-eight percent of smart speaker owners say they’re listening to more audio since getting their smart speaker
  • Smart speaker owners are increasingly using the devices in place of radio, smartphones, or TV

And 60 percent of smart speaker owners say that they are “probably” or “definitely” interested in a utility app that utilizes voice-activated skills, according to an ESource Residential Utility Customer Survey.

Twenty utilities have created skills or actions for their customers to use through a smart speaker or digital assistant, Snell said.

Features include checking account balance, efficiency tips, utility contact information, payments, outage updates, and smart home device control.

But there is more that can be done, Snell said:

  • Connect customers with utility programs
  • Help control smart devices
  • Help customers understand time variant rates
  • Promote trade allies
  • Walk customers through a home energy audit
  • Expand educational campaigns
  • Improve the customer experience and reduce call volumes

Utilities, especially those that were slow to develop mobile apps, are jumping on the bandwagon. However,  their challenges including the protection of data (is my smart speaker listening to me?), how to keep customers continually informed of new and more robust functions, the technology and expertise necessary for developing mobile assistant apps, and whether advertising WILL eventually infiltrate.

And of course while there is excitement building, those investing in digital assistant apps will also need to see whether smart speakers go the way of smart phones, or Google Glass and 3-D television.



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Matt Chester on Jan 24, 2019

These are exciting developments-- the connection between smart products and utility companies may seem kind of obvious now, but the possibilities are indeed immense. Demand response and time of use programs, niche smart products outside of lights & thermostats (how about smart blinds & smart EV chargers?), and more. This topic needs to be one of the top priorities for forward thinking energy suppliers

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