APIs are Essential for IoT Innovation, says Connected Home Market Leaders iControl

Mark Boyd
Sep. 26 2013, 02:00PM EDT

Announcing a new partnership between iControl, an extensible software platform for the connected home, and EcoFactor, an energy efficiency data company, Jim Johnson of iControl Networks said: “We both view integrations with APIs as the building blocks for innovation in the connected home market and the Internet of Things.”

Speaking with ProgrammableWeb on the day of the partnership announcement were Jim Johnson, EVP and GM of the Converge Business Unit at iControl Networks and Ted Fagensen, CMO at EcoFactor.

The partnership between the two companies enables them to deliver a smart energy service that integrates energy devices and appliances with data analytics about home heating and air conditioning systems on iControl’s device-agnostic platform. The partnership lets iControl draw on EcoFactor’s energy efficiency algorithms to help customers optimize and automate their home energy use. For example, the partnership has already been used to create an EcoSaver service for US households using Comcast’s XFINITY Home service.

Jim Johnson: “iControl has a partnership program to leverage three types of APIs:

  • Device APIs
  • Android app developers that run on the iControl touchscreen, and
  • APIs on the server side which enable partnerships like the one we have with EcoFactor.

The server-side APIs for example, have allowed access to EcoFactor’s advanced algorithms which use big data to optimize energy management on all of a household’s iControl connected devices.

APIs are core to the iControl service.”

Ted Fagensen: “The new thing with our partnership is that, with the iControl interface, EcoFactor can talk with each thermostat in a home independently. Because EcoFactor has built algorithms with a wide range of thermostats, you can have a simple thermostat and still optimize that. Other industry players offer more proprietary solutions, but the iControl interface opens up the market for all thermostats.

It is a bit like the 4G network: it doesn’t matter is you are using a Nokia, Lumia, or iPhone, you can still access the 4G network. The way that is done is by having:
1. A standard protocol
2. A set of variables with enough data points to create a sophisticated algorithm that maximizes energy efficiency.”

Business analysts – including GigaOm – believe the connected home market segment may be a key leveraging pointv to make the Internet of Things vision a reality. Supporting innovation by providing app developers with the tools (particularly the APIs, but also the chance to understand the big data being collected in the industry) is key to this leverage.

JJ: “All of the device data is sent to the app developers and they use that data as they see fit.”

TF: “A lot of data is being taken into account. For example, any changes to the thermostat are recorded, the weather, humidity, we can look at what happens if a motion sensor is activated and a door closes – that may indicate people have left the home for the day and there is a chance to optimize energy efficiency while everyone is out more than if we were just reading data from one thermostat sensor placed upstairs where people might not go upstairs for most of the day. On the big data side, we are collecting a lot of dynamic data and that feeds optimizing energy efficiency, and is opened up to app developers.”

With the connected home market still in its nascence, there are still many barriers to overcome for widespread adoption. One is the return on investment message being communicated to consumers. The lack of APIs from utility companies that could provide data on pricing structures and tariff rates mean that energy savings for consumers are shown in percentages and not dollar amounts per month. With the new partnership, iControl and EcoFactor believe there are many new opportunities emerging tfor app developers and hardware manufacturers looking to build products across a connected home ecosystem: a market expected to be worth $1.5 billion by 2017.

TF: "With more sensors and more data, for app developers like EcoFactor, the question is now how many new energy efficiency services will come forth?.”

Developers can get started by signing up to the iControl app developer partnership program.

Mark Boyd is a ProgrammableWeb writer covering breaking news, API business strategies and models, open data, and smart cities. I can be contacted via email, on Twitter, or on Google+.

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