Ford reveals ‘smart home’ tech alliance at CES

9 Jan 2013

Automotive giant Ford has announced a new cross-industry initiative involving six companies to create more energy-efficient homes in the future by integrating electric cars, connected home appliance technology, and solar panels to help homeowners lower their electricity bills.

Ford announced the new collaboration called MyEnergi Lifestyle at CES this week.

While Ford is spearheading the initiative, it involves appliance maker Whirlpool, solar panel manufacturer SunPower, power management company Eaton, semiconductor provider Infineon and California company Nest Labs, which has pioneered the Nest learning thermostat.

According to Ford, the collaboration will aim to demonstrate how technologies from all six companies can be integrated so that homes can consume energy more efficiently, thus slashing electricity bills.

The MyEnergi Lifestyle approach specifically looks at integrating renewable energy generation with the use of appliances and the charging of electric vehicles in the home at off-peak times to optimise energy consumption.

The companies have worked with researchers from Georgia Institute of Technology to create a computer model to calculate the electricity use of a typical family in their home for one year and the savings people could make by moving to a more energy-efficient lifestyle.

The results predict a 60pc reduction in energy costs and a saving of more than 9,000kg of CO2 emissions from a single home. They have calculated that if every home in the US implemented these energy-saving technologies, this would be the equivalent of 32m homes, or taking all the homes in California, New York and Texas off the power grid.

MyEnergi Lifestyle

Ford looks set to position its electric-vehicle technology, such as the new Ford C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid, at the core of this new collaboration.

“More than ever, cars are sharing the same energy source as the home,” said Mike Tinskey, Ford’s global director of vehicle electrification and infrastructure.

“The time is right for the home appliance and transportation sectors to converge if we are going to tackle a myriad of sustainability challenges in a rapidly changing world,” he said.

Ford gave examples of household appliances that could be used during off-peak hours via an automated or controlled mobile app, including dishwashers, hot water heaters and running a fridge’s defrost cycle.

Warwick Stirling, Whirlpool’s global director for energy and sustainability, said the average home in the US uses more than 11,000 kWh of electricity each year.

“But with recent technology advancements in our appliances, a family can use energy smarter and more efficiently,” he said.

As for SunPower’s involvement in the initiative, the idea is for homes to use rooftop solar systems.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic