Industrial giant Siemens is investing in smart-grid start-up Tendril and the two will market Tendril's home energy system to utilities.
The companies announced today that Siemens Venture Capital has invested an undisclosed amount in Tendril and will offer Tendril's products initially in the U.S. and Canada.
Siemens is one of the largest suppliers of power distribution equipment to utilities and commercial building management systems, but it lacks consumer-facing products.
Tendril makes software and in-home gadgets for consumers to monitor and manage home energy. A number of utilities are using Tendril's gear as part of smart-grid trials. Its software, for example, lets people monitor electricity use in real time while its hardware is installed when consumers participate in demand-response programs to curtail peak-time electricity.
Gaining Siemens as a marketing partner gives Boulder, Colo.-based Tendril, which employs about 150 people, a well-developed channel to sell to utilities, including Siemens systems integration business. Tendril's system is used by 40 utilities but pilot projects are getting larger, said Tendril CEO Adrian Tuck.
"The first few years, pilots were measured in the tens of thousands. Now there's been a flurry of activity where energy companies have said we now need to scale to millions of homes and we need to do it quickly," Tuck said. "The resources Siemens brings gives us the ability to keep going as this market accelerates."
Siemens Venture Capital was attracted to Tendril because it understands consumer behavior around energy and its software is a platform that can be built upon, said Paul Camuti, president of Smart Grid Applications at Siemens Energy. "We've been assembling a smart-grid portfolio that's grounded in project management. As these things start to scale up, the methodologies you use to manage utilities is critical," he said.
A number of utility smart-grid programs are geared at cutting down peak-time energy use or using less energy overall. Some utilities are being forced into upgrading the grid by regulators, others are trying out new technologies, and another group is embracing new ways of doing business with consumers, Camuti and Tuck said.
Tendril's software is designed to give consumers more control over and information on electricity usage, such as real-time and historical data, Tuck said. For utilities, its software analyzes customer usage so energy providers can better segment consumers, much the way cell phone carriers create different calling plans, he said. For example, a utility could offer time-of-use tariffs, giving consumers a financial incentive to run big energy loads, such as a dishwasher, at off-peak times. More advanced features would be demand response or electric-vehicle charge plans.
The two companies expect to explore areas where they could create closer integration between their products, they said.
The investment and partnership from a large company gives Tendril some more marketing muscle in a crowded area of home energy management, where dozens of companies have created home energy dashboard devices, although usage still remains limited.