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Sprint partners with SmartLabs on remote energy management

Carrier's 3G or 4G network supports smartphone control of energy-consuming devices, as well as a link to utility company demand response systems

A partnership between Sprint and energy control equipment manufacturer SmartLabs announced this week aims to help small businesses and residential users reduce their energy costs and use energy more efficiently. By combining SmartLabs’ premises-based automation technology with Sprint’s cellular connectivity, home and business owners will be able to schedule devices to be turned on and off or make such adjustments remotely via a smartphone connection or web portal, the partners said. In addition, some customers will have the option of letting their utility company remotely adjust key appliances at times of peak energy consumption when prices are higher.

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SmartLabs is the developer of the Insteon protocol, which communicates over wired networks based on in-home electrical wiring as well as over a wireless connection—in this case Sprint’s 3G and 4G networks, explained Brian Huey, Sprint smart grid business development manager, in an interview with Connected Planet.

Using the Insteon protocol, electrically-powered devices such as lighting, security systems, heating and cooling systems, appliances and door locks can be interconnected and can talk to each other. “Each device has a unique address to report status,” explained Huey.

Demand response
Sprint and SmartLabs have worked together to create a cellular gateway for connectivity to the Sprint network that interfaces with the Insteon system to allow data to be backhauled out of the customer location. To support automatic remote control by the utility, SmartLabs has developed an interface to the application programming interface of utility company demand response systems.

During a peak pricing event, Huey said, SmartLabs could, for example, raise a customer’s air conditioning thermostat two degrees, conserving energy and minimizing costs without substantially affecting the comfort of people at the location.

Sprint expects to see utility companies in certain states sell the new offering. Whether or not a utility company will be able to do so depends on state regulations, explained Huey. “In some states, utilities are licensed to go beyond the power meter into the home and in some states they aren’t,” he said.

An m2m pricing plan
Customers using the Sprint network to interface with a SmartLabs energy automation system will not purchase traditional minutes of use-based cellular connectivity but instead will be on a pricing plan aimed specifically at supporting machine-to-machine communications that recognizes that individual communications last only fractions of a minute.

The SmartLabs news builds on other smart grid offerings previously announced from Sprint, including others involving advanced meter infrastructure, grid sensors for distribution automation and commercial building management, Huey said.

“We’re building a portfolio of smart grid-enabling technology that brings tangible ROI to the smart grid,” said Huey.

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© 2014 Penton Media Inc.

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