How Apple’s Watch Could Save Energy

On September 9, Tim Cook unveiled the Apple Watch, “the most personal product” Apple has ever made, says the company, “because it’s the first one designed to be worn.” The watch joins other products like bracelets from Fitbit and Jawbone in a category called “wearable technologies,” or wearables.

Beyond decorating your wrist, these products are primarily worn to send, receive, and process information, through cellular networks, WiFi, Bluetooth, or—unique to Apple’s Watch—near-field communications (NFC). The Apple Watch can monitor your heart rate, track your location (through an accelerometer, gyroscope, and GPS), and recognize your voice.


Smartphones and their apps have already been doing great things for users managing their energy (and much more, including fitness), for example through connected thermostats, electric vehicle charging, solar panel output monitoring, sharing-economy services, and much more. So why would you wear Apple’s Watch when you have an iPhone? What extra value do wearables unlock that already isn’t accessible through other technologies?

First, wearable technologies can collect biological data, such as your heart rate and body temperature—that a phone in your pocket cannot. These data sources can tell a more complete story about your physical state than data from your phone. Second, wearable technologies are less likely to be separated from the user. Unlike phones, most users will wear their Apple Watch in the shower or in bed. In other words, it’s always with you.

This connectedness between wearable tech and the wearer opens up at least three categories of energy management opportunities: at home, at the office, and personal.


Wearable tech can help better match our homes’ energy use—especially heating and cooling—to our needs. For example, Nest’s Learning Thermostat has a built-in motion sensor. It’ll put your home’s HVAC system into an energy-saving “away” mode after a period of inactivity. But imagine how much energy could be saved if a device on your wrist signals your thermostat to go into “away” mode the moment you leave your home or neighborhood.

Similarly, programmable thermostats can be set to pre-condition your house so that it’s a comfortable temperature when you wake up and roll out of bed in the morning. Some smart thermostats even detect when you typically wake up during the week and create a fixed start-up time for your thermostat based on that. But wearing a device on your wrist—which is either connected to an alarm to wake you up, or which detects your sleep cycles and learns when you’re likely to wake—can more accurately tailor your home’s pre-conditioning to match your actual wake-up time, rather than a weekday thermostat program set to the same time, on average, you’re likely to get up.


Have you experienced working in a ridiculously frigid office in summer, because the building control system does not know how people feel? Or an overly hot office in the winter? Even an office that’s conditioned well to a target temperature could feel too hot and/or too cold (even at the same time!) given one person’s preferences vs. another.

Wearable technology can provide information like body temperature, heart rate, and respiration, giving a more complete picture of physical comfort. Voice recognition software could even detect when people are complaining about feeling too hot or cold.

Even more, wearable tech and other more personalized devices can help to condition the person, rather than the entire space—in fact, that’s the very principle behind heated seats and a heated steering wheel in the Nissan LEAF; it’s more efficient to make the person feel comfortable, rather than heat or cool the entire cabin. In an office setting, think of office chairs with heating elements, wristbands that cool your wrist like that from Wristify, or vents that determine personal air flow like those from Ecovent.

Beyond the office, wearable tech can have other applications when out and about, too. At the product launch, Cook described how the Apple Watch can replace a hotel keycard to unlock your room as you approach the door. Similarly, your watch can connect to your hotel room’s thermostat, to delay room cooling until you have checked in. No energy is wasted cooling an empty room, while ensuring a guest’s room is comfortable as they enter.


In a coming era when energy use becomes not just highly personalized, but attached in fact to individual people, it’s not hard to imagine developing personal energy profiles of our individual demand and consumption. And that could open the door to personal energy bills. Usually we bill our energy use to our energy-consuming assets—electricity and natural gas billed monthly for our home, for example. But imagine if instead of assigning energy consumption to our assets we re-assigned that energy consumption to ourselves? Gone could be the arguments between roommates about how to equitably split the utility bill (one of the top sources of friction among roommates in places such as New York City).

Or what if wearable tech, in addition to sending personal information out to the systems around us, could also receive signals back to us, such as from your utility. Could wearable tech further open the door to a personal version of demand response? For example, similar to how utilities use demand response to cycle off air conditioners during times of exceptionally high peak demand in summer, could they instead signal a Wristify bracelet to cool a person instead of an AC unit cooling a whole house, or could your Apple Watch receive a signal from the utility asking you to have an ice-cold tea instead of turning up the AC at 4:00 p.m.?


Many of the comfort-improving, energy-saving features above are enabled by more information about you being shared with computers. This of course opens up another set of issues around Big Brother watching and the privacy of potentially very personal information, who can “see” that information, and how will they be allowed to use that info. Whether having the option to turn such data sharing on or off, or another solution such as anonymizing the data, the face remains that wearable tech could be another front line in the grid’s evolution toward more distributed energy resources. Those DERs could now include not just things like rooftop solar panels and batteries in your garage, but also wearable technologies and the people who wear them.

This blog was originally posted on RMI’s blog. 

[MIT Entrepreneurship Review] Building Energy Audits: In The Field Or Virtual?

Original article appeared on MIT Entrepreneurship review []

Cleantech investors have high hopes for the nexus of software and energy—sometimes dubbed “cleanweb,” a term coined by Sunil Paul of Spring Ventures—after disappointing returns on many cleantech investments. Although companies in renewable energy generation and storage are critical for our energy industry to change, innovative software combined with smart business models can have significant impact on our energy consumption. Companies like Zipcar, EnerNOC and OPower reach percentage points of energy savings, without ever constructing a new type of energy generation system.

Given the power of software, where can one most effectively reduce energy consumption? As buildings account for 40% of total U.S. energy consumption, the built environment is a good place to start. But not only for environmental reasons. Energy efficiency is a vast economic opportunity for property owners and service providers, worth $1.2 trillion in this decade, as stated by McKinsey’s 2009 report on energy efficiency.

This huge economic opportunity can be tapped only by first analyzing where energy is used inefficiently—a role that has been traditionally fulfilled by energy auditors, who walk through buildings looking for energy saving opportunities. Armed with only pen and paper, the industry is ready for technological innovation. Two types of companies are trying to bring disruption: companies that build software to help auditors input and process building data and companies that eliminate the auditor altogether by producing virtual assessment software.

kWhOURS, a Boston-based company, falls within the first category. kWhOURS builds an iPad application for energy auditors, to enhance the experience of data collection in the field and to store all collected data in the cloud. From there, energy engineers—the people calculating potential energy savings—can access the data directly. The data is used as an input for energy modeling tools, with the goal to calculate the effects of energy conservation measures—so-called ECMs. kWhOURS finds its customers in the countries’ biggest 50 energy service companies (ESCOs) who make up 23% of the total retrofit market.

A slightly different approach is taken by EcoInsight. Like kWhOURS, EcoInsight produces software tools for energy auditors. The key difference between the products is that EcoInsight eliminates the need for engineers to manually compute and model the energy consumption of a building. The obvious advantage is that this saves engineering work, but can be to a disadvantage as many engineers prefer or even demand to use their own modeling tools. Unlike kWhOURS, EcoInsight’s tool is free.

Virtual energy audits take a different approach. Companies like FirstFuel and Retroficiencyoperate on the premise that through smart analysis of energy data, most opportunities for energy savings can be found without ever physically touching a building. Based on 15 minute interval energy data, weather data and geographical information, virtual energy audits estimate the opportunities for energy savings. Virtual audits have an obvious benefit: no longer do auditors need to roam around buildings for days on end, only to suggest energy conservation measures that could have been found through automated analysis.

FirstFuel is a key player. Founded by Swapnil Shah, a veteran-IT-entrepreneur, FirstFuel recently raised $10 million from Rockport Capital, Nth Power and Battery Ventures. Through its algorithms, FirstFuel is able to analyze opportunities for energy savings, and recommend both operational and retrofit opportunities. This is important, as no-cost operational measures, such as automatically switching off lights when employees go home, are often missed by traditional retrofitters.

Retroficiency holds a firm two-legged stand. Not only does the company offer a “Virtual Energy Assessment,” Retroficiency also offers “Automated Energy Audit,” a software tool for in-the-field auditors. Thereby, Retroficiency holds the potential both to scan large portfolios of buildings as well as deliver in-depth analyses.

Who will win the battle? Today, onsite energy audits exist side-by-side virtual assessments as both products have different value propositions. Virtual audits can not yet deliver the same level of granularity—and hence potential energy savings—as an in-field auditors offer. In order for an ESCO to identify all energy savings opportunities, energy auditors must be deployed. And the most effective way to do so is by arming them with software tools.

However, many real estate owners want a rapid and cheap way of scanning large building portfolios for energy saving potential. With rapidly improving data analysis tools and more data becoming publicly available (through programs like Green Button, virtual assessments are becoming a very interesting product to deliver.

The future is exciting. Whether improved data analysis tools and mapping energy consumption of each device through wireless sensors will eliminate the need for real auditors is to be seen. It is clear that all companies entering the space are adding very real value, as their products were being paid for before fully finished. After all, a $1.2 trillion pie is big enough to share.

Cleantech Forum post #1 for FD Selections Energie

Titiaan Palazzi

Over 2010 bedroegen de totale investeringen in cleantech $7.8 miljard (2010 annual review, Cleantech Group). Dat is evenveel als het bruto nationaal product van Malta. Goed nieuws, want bedrijven uit deze sector dragen niet alleen bij aan economische groei en werkgelegenheid, maar ook aan een lagere ecologische impact. Maar wat is cleantech precies?

Cleantech elimineert de oorzaak van ecologische vervuiling door middel van nieuwe technologie. Dit in tegenstelling tot end-of-pipe technologie zoals roetfilters, waarbij het milieu-effect wordt verminderd maar de oorzaak niet wordt aangepakt. Cleantech levert een financiële drijfveer voor toepassing – een lager gebruik van grondstoffen betekent uiteraard lagere kosten.

Forum San Francisco

Van 14 tot 16 maart vindt het Cleantech Forum San Francisco plaats. Dit forum, georganiseerd door de Cleantech Group, is hét jaarlijkse evenement voor geïnteresseerden in cleantech. Op dit evenement komen ondernemers, investeerders, beleidsmakers en bestuurders bij elkaar om de trends en ontwikkelingen binnen cleantech te bespreken en sterke strategieën te ontwikkelen. Tevens is dit de plek om een krachtig internationaal netwerk te bouwen.

Dit jaar zal het thema van het forum de rol van data binnen de cleantech sector zijn. Energie, water, transport, afval en landbouw – al deze sectoren veranderen snel door IT-oplossingen die de mogelijkheid creëren voor versnelde toepassing van nieuwe technologieën. Sprekers als Elon Musk (Tesla, PayPal) en Sheeraz Haji (Cleantech Group) zullen hun toekomst visie over de sector delen.

Trends, sprekers en bedrijven

Gedurende de komende drie dagen zal vanuit San Francisco iedere dag een kort bericht volgen met de belangrijkste trends, de beste sprekers en de meest interessante cleantech bedrijven. Voor meer informatie over het forum, zie deze link.

Titiaan Palazzi is naast co-organizer van het Cleantech forum in Amsterdam ondernemer, TUDelft-student duurzame energie en strategisch adviseur bij Wij Zijn koel.

Silicon Valley post #1 for HOPE

A truck flying off a bridge in the movie Inception; a sound recording of Jon Bon Jovi; and Buzz Lightyear rescuing Woody from the hands of a human being. What do these three seemingly unrelated things have in common?

They have all been created by Ex’pression College students. The intensive bachelor program attracts artistic talent from across the world and aims to create the leading visual and auditory artists of tomorrow. Ex’pression College graduates develop films, games and sounds and go on to work with companies like Pixar, Zynga and Disney. The program focuses on teaching the techniques of the future and equips students with a sought-after set of skills. Don’t be put off if you’re class runs from midnight till the next morning, because this place is just buzzing with energy!

After our tour of Ex’pression college, we headed back from Emeryville to San Francisco, where our afternoon program would be hosted by the Dutch Consulate. Their 31st floor office, with an amazing view of San Francisco city, hosts the NBSO, the TWA and the Netherlands Foreign Investments office – important Dutch organizations that help to establish a strong relationship between the US and the Netherlands

Our first keynote speaker was Mr. Sinrod, an attorney at law from DuanneMorris, a leading US law firm. Mr. Sinrod gave us a captivating lecture on IP-protection of web based information, such as domain names and search results. He explained why a baby was sued by a comic book manufacturer and clarified how Madonna got into a clash with a rehabilitation center for people with polio. Interesting stuff and highly funny!

The program was rounded up by Ella van Gool, who works with venture-backed Square 1 bank. Mrs. Van Gool talked to us about the do’s & don’ts for Dutch in America. Have your pitch ready, be concise and please don’t start talking politics!

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Titiaan Palazzi