Once only envisioned in cartoon families like The Jetsons or infuturistic movies, a strategic alliance between national energyprovider The New Power Co. and Internet gateway provider CoactiveNetworks is zooming in on the first complete “smart homes” for U.S.consumers and small businesses.
The deal, announced last week, would begin with a pilot programthis year in 200 homes in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, connectingcustomers’ thermostats, meters, lighting fixtures, appliances,security systems and home automation systems to the Internet, andthereby giving them specific troubleshooting and power usageinformation.
As part of the agreement, TNPC, a subsidiary of NewPowerHoldings Inc., will use Sausalito, CA-based Coactive technology tooutfit households with telemetry e-services, such as energymanagement and home control.
Once established, the Internet would enable commands fromoutside the home or business, using wireless devices, or throughservice orders and changes through web site pages. It also couldautomate phone and e-mail alerts from remote home devices likesecurity systems, swimming pools and even a medicine cabinetrunning short on a prescription. In turn, NewPower would use theInternet system to adjust thermostats during high-demand periods inexchange for rate discounts, reducing outages and establishingtheir generation requirements.
The move is considered a significant step for TNCP in its driveto bring cutting edge technology to consumers and small businessesto manage energy costs. The Coactive Connector residential gatewayis designed to address energy management issues arising from thechanging regulatory and market environment.
H. Eugene Lockhart, CEO of NewPower, based in Purchase, NY, saidthe alliance “will enhance our value to consumers and smallbusinesses and introduce a new world of Internet-enabled services.”He said the ability to offer telemetry e-services would “cement ourrelationship” with long-term customers.
Coactive CEO David Gaw said the alliance was the first “truesmart home initiative” in the country. “Trends related toderegulation will continue to drive residential gateway deploymentsin 2001.” He said “forward-thinking” energy providers like NewPowerwould lead the way in managing energy usage.
NewPower, formed by Houston-based Enron Corp. in 1999, expectsto reach 1.2 million customers this year, with net revenuesexpected to be between $530 million and $540 million. In February,subsidiary TNCP said that its customer count stands at about368,000, offering retail marketing and sales of natural gas andelectricity to residential, commercial and industrial customers.
TNCP’s residential customer base includes accounts in Californiaand Ohio transferred from Enron, as well as about 285,000 naturalgas customers and 20,000 electricity customers in eight states,primarily Georgia, Ohio and Pennsylvania, acquired from theColumbia Energy Group in July 2000.
NewPower has strategic partnerships with IBM, which provides thecompany with all back office functions, and AOL, which providesexclusive access to more than 23 million subscribers.
Carolyn Davis, Houston
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