Under Development

Practical-and enjoyable-home energy management systems

Interest in renewable energy continues to grow, and R&D is underway around the world on next-generation smart grids. Much of this research, however, is conducted for utility companies and others involved with the infrastructure, not from the perspective of the consumers who will actually participate. Sony is studying the user side of smart grids, hoping to develop home energy management systems (HEMS) that are enjoyable to use.

A closer look at smart grids

What makes smart grids smart is information technology, which is used to optimize supply and consumption of electricity on the power network. One facet of this is monitoring residential energy consumption through networked smart meters in order to supply electricity more efficiently.

Optimizing home energy consumption with HEMS

In contrast, HEMS are focused on energy consumption. These systems illustrate how much electricity is being consumed by a variety of networked home appliances in real time, so that users can ensure efficient consumption. Sony is moving ahead in original HEMS R&D aimed at developing systems that are not only practical but also enjoyable to use, hoping to leverage proven expertise in innovative power sources, energy-efficient products, energy storage solutions, and entertainment.

Joining a smart grid pilot program in the U.S.

Sony is participating in the Pecan Street Smart Grid Demonstration Project in Austin, Texas, to test a smart grid through a pilot program slated for early 2012. A Sony HEMS will be installed at up to 500 households in an exploration of a promising smart grid business model, in which communities can enjoy managing their energy consumption.

Overview of the pilot program

Testing a new approach
for more affordable HEMS

One approach that will be studied is monitoring energy consumption by measuring the current waveforms from a single main wiring location on the power distribution board instead of each individual power distribution board or piece of equipment.

Offering users added value,
through Sony electronics and entertainment

Sony will provide participating households with a set-top box to bring Internet connectivity to their television. Using a HEMS will be more convenient and enjoyable once users can access a portal site for energy management from their TV, and conservation-themed games and free content will be provided to help save energy. As a way to reduce costs in the future, an advertising-supported business model will also be studied.

Efficient energy management without
compromising comfort or convenience

Another goal is to develop smart grids that benefit both communities and utility companies, using Sony technology that helps predict electricity demand in order to reduce overall consumption. All households will receive a networked home thermostat, which will encourage participants to reduce energy consumption for heating or cooling during periods of peak demand in convenient ways.

Potential open-platform benefits

Another facet of the smart grid under investigation is incorporating open-platform technology to allow third parties to offer services that utilize home energy consumption data collected by Sony, while maintaining security and privacy.