Smart Batteries: A market beyond the gadgets

By John Leonard March 14, 2018

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Could the next move for technology giants be into the home energy market? One energy consultant seems to think so.

The big tech companies are all competing to be the heart of the smart home. Amazon Echo, Google Home Speaker and Apple’s forthcoming HomePod, amongst others, all want to be the go-to device for running our lives.

Tying in to consumers’ personal technology is a great way to generate revenue but tying in to their home and their car, effectively their daily life, will yield tremendous returns.

> Read more: Smarter homes with Samsung and Bluetooth

The driver of the smart home market

Energy – or rather money – is the prime driver, at least initially, of the smart home for consumers. Convenience is great, but it won’t convince someone to spend $200, replacing something that works perfectly well, just to save 10 seconds a day. If a consumer can spend $200 dollars to save $300 off their energy bills, for example through smart lighting that’s easily dimmable through voice control, then that becomes an attractive proposition.

Development of smart batteries

Elon Musk is spending a lot of money developing battery technology that can power not only Tesla cars but also homes and other companies are working on this too. Consumers in the US alone spend $162 billion every year on home electricity so capturing even a fraction of that market through renewable harvesting and storage systems would be worth a huge amount.

Smart batteries in the home work by storing more of the electricity that’s generated locally – through wind and solar, for example – rather than simply sending it all off to the grid. These batteries are available now and the case for them, at least in ideal conditions, is a strong one.

By deciding the best time to charge and the best time to feed in to the grid, a smart battery could cut energy bills by around 80%, even in the middle of winter.

Up until now, size and cost have prevented such devices becoming the norm in a home, but a single 13.5kWh powerbank is now about the same size as a holiday suitcase. As for the potential savings versus the upfront investment, that will depend on circumstances such as the climate, usage and size of the house.

The obvious next step?

Solid-state batteries offer much higher density so you can store much more energy in the same size device but currently they’re prohibitively expensive. This is likely to be where Apple sees the most potential.

If they can develop a solid-state battery with similar costs to Lithium technology then energy savings can be guaranteed. Combine this with the other benefits of HomeKit – guaranteed compatibility, easy commissioning, simple control – and a complete smart home package emerges.

> Read more: Voice control in the smart home

Awaiting the first mover

Tying this all together we can see why this consultant believes energy could well be Apple’s next move. We know from the past that when Apple lead, others follow, so it’s likely that if Apple are working on this then others will be too.

Whilst the battle for control of the smart home is heating up, the likely form – in terms of technology – is starting to become clear. A combination of battery power, Bluetooth Mesh technology and voice control is set to be right at the center of the smart home revolution.

> Read more: Mesh networks in the smart home 

Topics: battery


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By: John Leonard

John Leonard has a B.Sc (Hons) in Electronics and Computing from the University of Portsmouth in the UK. Leonard currently works as Product Marketing Manager in Product Management with responsibility for product support needs and staff training requirements. He has worked in various roles in the 12 years he has been with Nordic Semiconductor, including Field Applications Engineer and Regional Sales Manager in both US and Europe. Previously he has worked in Systems & Software within the defense industry. Outside of work Leonard enjoys playing guitar, reading and playing football. Feel free to ask John a question in the comments below!

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