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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Who is developing the innovation you won't?

The only time most of us interact with our energy service providers is during the monthly billing cycle, though they have the ability to engage us more often using their knowledge – both of how energy is used and of our historical use of it – to offer tips on how to conserve energy, improve the survival chances of the planet and save money.

Mine has made some strides toward adding value beyond their core offering by helping turn the mountain of my personal usage data they maintain into useful information to help me understand and lower my energy costs. The functionality of their tools is a long way from what I desire or expect, consisting mostly of calculators that estimate usage based on my profile and compare it to mean users, while feeding me factoids I could generally get from reading my bill.

Their delayed action on service innovation lost them the advantage of the industry expert incumbent holding all the consumer usage data. (no small feat)

Two tech applications powerhouses have entered the market for virtual energy monitoring. Google PowerMeter is still in development stage, but looks to be a simple platform for collecting and sharing personal energy information. MicroSoft Hohm has energy company-provided usage information and smart sensors feeding a consumer’s Quicken-like energy management interface.
Because legacy service providers don’t know the emerging needs of their market, haven’t maintained innovation capabilities and got comfortable with their well-bunkered margins, they let companies who don’t know their industry innovate for them on their own terms.

The market need will get fulfilled, but I’d bet the Google & Microsoft apps are better, more quickly than what the energy companies ultimately produce. Companies that complain that their customers see them as a commodity seldom realize the extent to which they act like them.

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