The technology giants aren’t interested in selling megawatts—at least not for now. But they are seeking ways to expand their smart speakers, Internet-connected thermostats and other devices to harness information on consumers’ personal energy use. That data holds great power; it can be used to manage energy demand by incentivizing consumers to use less electricity during peak hours.
While the energy ambitions of tech companies are currently limited, some executives anticipate a future where solar panels, battery storage and even electric vehicles all become part of a smart-home ecosystem. Under that scenario, any company that controls the software and systems that deliver energy could gain a formidable market position, according to executives and consultants.
“In 10 or 20 years, the dominant retail electric provider in the United States is going to be Amazon or Google,” said David Crane, the former chief executive of NRG Energy Inc., who said he isn’t involved in discussions with the companies. “They can provide lower cost and better service.”
Home-energy management is a battleground in a competition between Google and Amazon for internet-connected devices that has intensified in recent years after both companies saw smart speakers take off in popularity. Google bought Nest Labs, a maker of home-security cameras and thermostats, for $3.2 billion in 2014. Last year, Amazon bought Ring, a maker of video doorbells, in a deal valued at more than $1 billion. In March, Amazon joined a $61 million investment funding round into smart thermostat maker ecobee Inc.
Consulting firm Wood Mackenzie estimated that spending on home-energy devices exceeded $40 billion in 2018 and is set to double in the next five years.
Google, in a push for wider adoption of its connected devices, has struck partnerships with utilities and power providers in the U.K. and the Netherlands, as well as in Illinois, California and Texas. Google has a deal with Reliant Energy, a Texas electricity provider owned by NRG.
Facial-detection technology that Amazon is marketing to law enforcement often misidentifies women, particularly those with darker skin, according to researchers from MIT and the University of Toronto. Privacy and civil rights advocates have called on Amazon to stop marketing its Rekognition service because of worries about discrimination against minorities. Some Amazon investors have also asked the company...
(AFP/File) Chinese web tycoon and future Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai waded into national security controversy Friday, slamming the US treatment of Chinese smartphone maker Huawei. Tsai, a senior executive at Alibaba and right-hand man to its billionaire chief executive Jack Ma, said that the US was being “extremely unfair” to Huawei, adding that measures to...