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CANADIAN START-UP ECOBEE IS ABUZZ WITH INNOVATIVE SMART HOME TECHNOLOGY IDEAS
By Suzanne Forcese
Today as life now revolves around our phones, the Connected Home is becoming one of the most interesting areas in consumer electronics. Controlling a home’s heating and cooling, by phone became a simple digital transformation idea when Stuart Lombard, founder and CEO of ecobee, revolutionized the thermostat.
WATERTODAY connected with the team at ecobee, named after “bees who help each other out and cool the hive with their bodies”. We learned that a simple household glitch became the genesis for the company that is helping home owners reduce their environmental footprint.
“One day we came home with our three small children to our house temperature of 10 degrees,” Lombard said. It was 2007 and Lombard gave up his job as a partner in a venture capital firm to start a thermostat company and “everyone thought I was crazy. The implication was thermostats are as good as they are going to get.”
Fast forward to 2020 and with a team that is encouraged to be creative and innovative –“we have things like hackathons, Creative Labs, white boards for walls” – ecobee thermostats help save money and the environment all in one step.
eco+ is one of the company’s latest updates using machine learning to understand the rate at which a home heats and cools, daily occupancy habits, comfort preferences, local weather, and the cost of electricity at different times of the day.
Heating and cooling amount to 40-70% of a home’s energy use.
Ecobee Total Home Comfort and Security Bundle Photo Courtesy ecobee
“eco+ shatters the myth that you have to be too hot or too cold in order to save money on energy, and we believe we can find even more savings without compromising comfort as we build even more intelligence into our platform.” - Kevin Banderk, chief revenue and marketing officer
The end result allows home-owners to stay more comfortable, consume cleaner, greener energy, and save money.
The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Research suggests that to keep global warming in check the world’s energy supply must be carbon neutral by 2050. Getting to net-zero carbon emissions by mid-century will require transforming today’s fossil fuel-intensive energy grid into one that’s almost solely based on carbon-free energy sources including renewables like wind, solar, biomass, -- and where appropriate -- hydro and nuclear.
One of the major challenges with renewable energy is its variability. While it’s low in cost, it’s not always available when it is most needed. If the demand exceeds energy produced (by wind and solar, for example), and it can’t be stored – it’s lost.
“eco+ is helping us get closer to a truly electrified future, free of carbon emissions by providing grid operators with the tools to better manage demand during peak times and by helping customers stay comfortable in their homes with more low-cost green energy.”
Stuart Lombard says, “We can power the home more efficiently by pre-heating or cooling when the energy is less expensive and cleaner. eco+ can do this because it’s thermal model tells it exactly how long your home can keep a desired temperature.”
In keeping with one of the company’s core values of “how can we do this better” ecobee introduced Haven in April 2020, an intelligent home monitoring platform that eliminates the need for keypads, programming and single-use devices.
The timing could not have been more appropriate as the COVID-19 pandemic abruptly changed the meaning of ‘normal’.
First responders, essential workers, people who have to be away from home, and even parents who are required to work from home while simultaneously parenting or keeping an eye on the elderly – these are the components of the new normal that ecobee has merged with.
Casey McKinnon, ecobee’s Vice President of Product said that “During our field trials, we saw many parents checking in on kids in the playroom from their new home offices or keeping a closer eye on elderly loved ones remotely.”
The new SmartCamera with voice controls and SmartSensors for doors and windows offers users an accessible affordable versatile solution to meet the ever changing needs of people and homes.
“Haven not only offers a greater sense of awareness, context and control, but also brings peace of mind back to the forefront of the smart home. We go where our customers need us to go, and are thrilled to introduce thoughtful technology that can help families navigate the chaos of everyday life.”
That commitment to a better tomorrow is underscored in another of Lombard’s core values. “We consider ourselves guests into your home and if we want to do well we need to provide products and services that you value. It’s about being really explicit about how we think about your data, what we do in a very transparent way.
“A better tomorrow is about making our cities more sustainable. We’re working with community housing groups and donating thermostats to help bridge the poverty gap. We’re also working with researchers and institutions to solve problems – everything from energy efficiency problems to helping seniors live longer in their homes.”
Stuart Lombard believes that machine learning and artificial intelligence are at the forefront of changing the world.
“Sustainability isn’t about sacrifice. It’s about creating better products that are better for the environment. We believe given the right tools, people have the power to change the world.” - Stuart Lombard, Founder & CEO ecobee
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