I feel like the gap between what I would see in science fiction movies and what actually exists used to be much wider. Futuristic movies today show holograms coming out of your phone in broad daylight, sheets of glass that turn into TVs and robots that do literally everything for you.

Well guess what? I saw all of those things this week during the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada. They all exist. My colleague’s jaw literally dropped when he saw the ambient light hologram.

I saw biometrics that run your whole house: your door unlocks automatically when it sees you; the shower temperature is exactly set to your preference; and the sink faucet dispenses the exact quantity of water that you need for your brew. There were also robots that mow your lawn, robots that get a new roll of toilet paper for you if you run out at an inopportune moment and robots that play with your dog for you (so sad!). Everything is electrifying. Even the things that used to be totally manual – like a door mat, which now features a powerful vacuum so you don’t have to wipe your feet.

All of this got me thinking about the implications for energy management. We used to have around five major electric end uses in the home – HVAC, lighting, water heating, cooking and “miscellaneous plug loads.” We never had to consider toilet paper robots in our load profiles before. These smart devices can absolutely be a benefit to the grid. But if we are going to learn how to manage 50 loads in the home instead of five or 10, we are going to have to get much better at sending the right signals to these devices and to make sure they are all coordinated and optimized. This means sharing lots of data amongst a diverse set of actors, sophisticated artificial intelligence and robust identity management, access control and data privacy.

Fortunately, several of the projects the Itron Idea Labs team demoed during CES address exactly these problems. Our suite was packed all week, and we had lots of great meetings with our utility and city customers as well as our technology partners. Our future looks bright…and completely (sometimes excessively) automated!

Stay tuned for additional insights from this year’s CES event in Las Vegas. To learn more about the Itron Idea Labs team, click here.

Luke Scheidler
Itron Idea Labs - Itron
Mr. Scheidler is a clean energy professional with 10 years of experience in public and private sector research and consulting to utilities, government agencies, and other stakeholders. He has extensive experience across a wide range of supply and demand side energy resources including solar PV, solar thermal, wind, combined heat and power, storage, demand response, and energy efficiency. His expertise with these technologies has been leveraged for potential studies, market assessments, cost-effectiveness analysis, program evaluation, policy insight, and utility and corporate strategic planning. Mr. Scheidler works for Itron Idea Labs, a startup business and idea incubator within Itron. Here, he is responsible for soliciting and developing new and innovative business opportunities from our utility partners, the startup community, and our own internal resources.