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Smart buildings 06/12/2018

CES 2019: ENGIE presents its Solutions for the connected home

Making the home a place that you can leave with peace of mind and that you are happy to return to: this is the goal of the project that Amaury Lamarche is developing as an internal startup within ENGIE. The team will be exhibiting its solutions for connected objects at the ENGIE & Partners stand at CES.Amaury Lamarche told us about the project’s history and its vision for the future.

Connected objects that make the house smart? Is this what the "ENGIE Solutions for the connected home" project offers?

We don’t intend to develop our own connected objects the way that Sowee does at EDF or Hive at British Gas because we are convinced that there are currently players on the market who already successfully market incredibly intuitive objects. We have logically established relationships with these market leaders to access data from their objects in order to back up our own energy efficiency solutions. Our project allows us to create new experiences that can be used by our residential customers through the ENGIE Group's web interfaces and applications.

For example, by gathering data from a simple thermostat we can now provide them improvements on their heating program, estimate the efficiency of their equipment, or even offer insulation tips. However, we are not limiting ourselves to thermostats because we have already integrated other objects into our platform like boilers, connected outlets and solar panels. In a way we make these connected objects talk to each other make them more relevant, useful and profitable!

We are planning to expand our services to electric vehicles in the near future. To give you an example, by capitalizing on the services offered by ENGIE in France and internationally, we can optimize a vehicle’s charging times to reduce a customer’s bills.

Are your customers mostly individuals?

We provide services to our sales entities, our Business Units. These services are directly integrated into their client interfaces (websites, applications, email, etc.) through APIs. For example, we were currently working on integrating Netatmo thermostats directly into the ENGIE Particuliers application, which should be available in January. Customers will be able to understand the impact of their preferred temperature conditions on how their consumption changes over time.

But we are also developing solutions used by our services provider network for individual customers. These services allow us to revolutionize our relationship and implement truly innovative customer promises. I am thinking in particular of the Eideris offering from ENGIE Home Services, which provides a new connected and efficient boiler with a remote help service, all included in a monthly package.

You developed the project as an internal startup at ENGIE?

The idea emerged at the end of 2016 following several observations. For several years, ENGIE has been selling a range of connected objects (thermostats, charging stations, solar panels, boilers, etc.) with or without contracts. Also, our customers have access to services provided by online sales sites or networks of third-party stores. However, prior to us there was no solution within ENGIE to gather (with the customer’s consent) the data generated by these objects, which is valuable for enriching our relationship. You need to know that ENGIE manages 24 million energy and service contracts with customers in more than 12 countries, which is an incredible asset for deploying these solutions on a larger scale.

The first step of the project was to demonstrate that we were able to trace data from a thermostat that was not manufactured by ENGIE and offer personalized services that could be replicated on other brands. In 2017, this allowed us to obtain the funding we needed to implement these solutions in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.

The success of these early developments earned us the confidence of the management and pushed to challenge ourselves to roll out the solution on an industrial level with ENGIE Digital in 2018. With Aissa Belaid, my partner in this story, we assembled a team that brings together business and digital expertise to work on major projects, particularly in Belgium, France and Italy.

We could compare this process to the development of a startup: first a POC to sell the concept and obtain the first financing, then an MVP to test the model and embed an entire ecosystem in our vision, and finally an industrial-level phase for making our solution robust and scalable. We are now focusing on integrating  new partners, developing new services and opening new markets.

What have you got to say about innovation at ENGIE?

The energy sector is in the midst of major changes, essentially with regards to two concepts: ecology and digital. Innovation is bubbling with business models that are rapidly changing. ENGIE wants to have a special place in the future of energy. To be at the center of the transformation of a sector that needs to sell better to consume less, the company is making space for iterative innovations such as our project.

Today, our solution is considered a real lever for innovation in our customer solutions. I am convinced that the future for ENGIE lies in the sale of energy efficiency services and not just in the billing of energy consumption.

What does it mean for you to participate in CES?

This is certainly not a victory lap because we still have a way to go to prove that the project is a success. On the other hand, it is the perfect moment for us to participate in this kind of event because our solution is now mature and ready to be produced at industrial scale. We are ready to enrich our ecosystem of partners and back it with new services.

The CES is the meeting place for the most innovative companies on the market working on connected houses. It’s an opportunity to identify new use cases for the home of the future and share with innovators from around the world. We are also convinced that it’s an opportunity to give ourselves greater visibility and build win-win relationships with market leaders.

What will you show at CES?

We are going to focus on showing two solutions that we worked on in 2018.

First, the EIDERIS boiler pack from ENGIE Home Services that I already mentioned. It is an offering that includes a new efficient boiler that can be had for €63 per month for 5 years, including the possibility of repairs seven days a week and remote monitoring in case of anomalies. We have developed a remote monitoring tool that allows our technician network to be notified in real time in case of a failure.

Then the BOXX, a thermostat developed in Belgium in partnership with Quby, a connected object that includes several features: water, electricity, and gas consumption and a thermostat. We enriched the experience with performance detection, heat retention and water leaks.

What would a magical encounter consist of for you at CES?

I don’t expect to attend a wedding being celebrated by Elvis! More seriously, as I said, participating in CES is not a culmination. We currently have a shared vision of our industrial platform and our goal is to achieve our ambition. The partners and stakeholders that are helping us develop truly differentiating and value-added uses will be key meetings at the CES.

How do you imagine the connected house in 2030?

The home should above all be a place to share moments of life, emotions, where you can spend time with the people who are close to us. In my vision, technology must contribute to human emancipation and in no way lead to isolation.

The connected house must not enslave its occupants through control and management, but must release them from constraints – which are not necessarily the most rewarding. In 2030, we will leave the connected house with light spirits and will be glad to return. And connecting objects is only the first step: it is the intelligence that we will apply to it that will make it possible to fulfil this ambition.

Source: Christine Leroy

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