Vectorform, DTE Team Up to Launch “Fitbit for Your House”

This week at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Royal Oak, MI-based software development firm Vectorform and utility company DTE Energy announced they are forming a new venture called Powerley to capitalize on the in-home Internet of Things trend.

Powerley has created a “customizable, real-time home energy management platform for utility companies” that will use data from smart meters to help consumers track their energy consumption in an interactive way, said Vectorform president and CEO Jason Vazzano.

This is not the first time these two entities have collaborated. In 2012, Vectorform approached DTE with an idea for customers to get up-to-the-minute information on energy usage from an app. Vectorform created a device called an Energy Bridge, which attached to customers’ smart meters and provided data to a companion app called DTE Insight.

“The idea is to make it like a Fitbit for your house,” Vazzano said. “We also added some gamification components to challenge customers to use less energy.”

The industry-first innovation was such a success, Vazzano said—45,000 customers have downloaded DTE Insight in the past six months—that they decided to try to take the concept beyond Michigan. With the Powerley venture, they will offer the same technology to utility companies and their customersacross North America and Europe.

“There are a lot of variables with energy use, and our app allows you to see where the energy spikes are throughout the day,” Vazzano said. “Customers can become detectives and go through their homes, eliminating energy drains.”

Powerley’s app allows users to connect their home’s smart meter to their smartphone. Once a utility offers Powerley to its customers, the company will ship the Powerley Energy Bridge to participating homes equipped with smart meters. Customers can then plug the small hardware device into their home network, download the Powerley app, and see a complete, real-time breakdown of their home’s energy consumption. The cost of the devices will depend on what each utility wants to charge. (DTE is considered Powerley’s first utility customer, and it provides Energy Bridge devices to its customers for free.)

The Powerley app will also host weekly challenges designed to reward users for saving energy; consumers will be able to compare their performance with friends or groups within the community and share encouragement.

Powerley’s iPhone users will have an additional, patent-pending tool called PowerScan, which allows them to hold their phone up to any appliance’s electrical cord and see how much it costs monthly to operate the appliance.

“When customers first hear about the app, they think it sounds nice, but then they see their own data and a light bulb goes off,” Vazzano said. “It’s amazing when you give someone real-time information. Based on that information, we’re able to provide tips and tricks, and we’re seeing tremendous engagement.”

Vazzano said Powerley, which plans to eventually hire 15 full-time employees, is backed by capital from Vectorform and DTE. As the company grows, he said, it will look for additional utility companies with “dense smart meter infrastructure” to form partnerships with.

Sarah Schmid Stevenson is the editor of Xconomy Detroit/Ann Arbor. You can reach her at 313-570-9823 or sschmid@xconomy.com. Follow @XconomyDET_AA

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