Today the release of the Think Beyond iPhone app makes Bord Gáis Energy the first utility company in Ireland to deliver such a service to its customer base, and so begins an era of accessible smart metering.
When we try to picture the home of the future we usually remember ‘The Jetsons’ complete with robot maid or perhaps the dystopian vision of Minority Report complete with retina-scanning and touchless interfacing.
Realistically it is more likely that the future will happen when we’re busy getting on with it, and technology that we’re already familiar with, ie the mobile phone, will play a large part in the smart home.
Think Beyond is Board Gáis Energy’s (BGE) way of thinking ahead to the smart home and it begins with an iPhone app that allows customers to check account balances, billing dates and transaction history for their electricity and gas.
Launched today and available as a free download from the App Store, Think Ahead is in its first phase but already BGE’s eChannel team is looking to phase two when more functionality can be added and customers will monitor their energy usage with ease and a degree of automation.
“Looking down the road at the area of smart monitoring, the customer will become fairly sophisticated in terms of technology. Smart metering will be integrated into iPhone apps and smartphone apps in general,” says Stiofain MacDhaibhead, PR manager with BGE.
“It will probably be the case that customers can control things such as the thermostat through their phones – we’re not a million miles away from this,” he adds.
In the next phase of development BGE will be looking at giving customers useful information including energy consumption, their own off-peak and peak usage times or when to put on the washing machine, explains MacDhaibhead.
This could go further, he says, and it would be ideal to integrate social media messaging services like Twitter.
“People could be alerted if their thermostat is set too high, they’re consuming too much, or perhaps to switch off appliances at peak times.”
This focus on new technologies and communications platforms is the remit of the eChannel team headed by Eoin O’Suilleabhain who has overseen the development of this new iPhone app.
“The success of the online and social media element of the Big Switch made it a great deal easier to graduate to creating an iPhone app,” explains O’Suilleabhain.
In tune with customers
“There are always going to be a certain amount of people who will interact over the phone or face to face so it’s all about making sure you have all the options for a customer touch point.
“You could say that we’re casting the net wider. An iPhone app could be considered niche but it is just the beginning.
Interestingly, O’Suilleahnain and the eChannel team found that most of BGE’s mobile traffic is coming from a combination of the iPhone, iPod and iPad.
“We’re looking at rolling out the Think Beyond app for Android and Nokia devices in phase two,” he adds.
In addition future builds of the app hope to include the option to bill your utility bills as well as push notification so that automatic alerts pop up on your phone when you’re bill is issued or you’re due a meter reading. All perfect ingredients for the busy but ’appy customer.