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Integrated home heating – the importance of protocols and APIs

residential-heating

Delta-ee recently completed a consultancy piece for the Energy Systems Catapult looking at the integrated home energy landscape as it relates to heat pumps. In our work, we covered many aspects related to the integrated home heating market as well as the heat pump market supply chain. Here I discuss where we see this space is going.

Currently, many connected home devices and heating systems are siloed in their operation and are not fully interoperable. It often requires effort to integrate different parts of the system by homeowners or professionals. This is likely to change in the future.

a venn diagram showing three circles showing heating controls, heating systems and other energy and smart home components. where the circles meet it says integrated home energy system

A truly integrated home energy system is one where the ‘smart’ devices and the heating system in the home seamlessly integrate, offering additional features and enhanced capabilities.

The integrated home heating landscape is moving towards increased use of open protocols and APIs. This trend increases interoperability but also security risks.

Definitions:

  • An API is an Application Programming Interface. It is the format used to transmit information – the software intermediary that allows two applications to talk to each other.

a blue icon of a rectangle with a plug inside, with text around the outside saying tablet, website, mobile phone, web app, database, smart speaker

  • A protocol is the mode and rules that govern the way information is transported.

two computers with wavy arrows pointing between each saying protocol A, protocol B and protocol C

In the future, we are likely to see further interoperability between heating systems and third-party devices (e.g. smart thermostats) via APIs. By sending control signals and data between devices up into the cloud, instead of via direct in-home communication, this allows for remote servers to do all the necessary integration. It supports a greater range of possibilities. In this way, the integrated home heating space can respond dynamically to changing needs. New functionality and services can be developed on demand off the back of existing hardware. However, much of this assumes that manufacturers of heating products and smart home products develop open APIs.    

a house with a heat pump or boiler, smart thermostat, smart speaker and mobile phone inside. There are arrows going to and from a cloud above the house which has two boxes inside saying manufacturers server and third party servers.

 

Further interoperability could be enabled by Open API, cloud-based inter-device communication

Open API advantages:

  • Open APIs serve to increase connectivity in the integrated home heating space.
  • Open APIs are considered more agile and adaptable, with new functionality being more easily added. This can drive business value.
  • Open APIs allow companies to specialise and other vendors to provide complimentary parts of a wider system. This allows smaller players to enter the market. This, in turn, promotes innovation and can, therefore, promote the entire market.
  • Having open APIs may in some cases result in unexpected changes to business direction as third parties interface with the API to provide functionality in novel ways. In many cases, this adds business value. In some cases, it interferes with BAU operations.

Open API Disadvantages:

  • Many consider the largest issue with open APIs to be potential security vulnerabilities they may create.
  • Given their dynamic nature, it can often be expensive for the host organisation to maintain open APIs.

Want to know more now?

The Delta-ee team and I love chatting about all things related to the UK and European energy landscape. Things are changing rapidly and it’s projects like these that put us at the forefront of the evolving new energy space. Feel free to get in contact with me at [email protected] or check out our website for more info.

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