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Do gas boilers still have a role to play in Dutch new build homes?

Many in the heating industry are looking with interest at the developing situation in the Netherlands, where a series of earthquakes in the north of the country caused by over-extraction from the Groningen gas field have led to a groundswell of cross-sector support for the idea of reducing – or even entirely removing – the use of Dutch natural gas.

There are a number of policies and supporting mechanisms in place to encourage the move away from natural gas as a fuel for heating homes. The latest has been a well-publicised change to the Dutch Law regulating the gas network operators (‘The Gas Law’).

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Have you installed your last gas boiler?

The heating market is changing. New, lower carbon systems are emerging, and disruption is occurring in the traditional value chains. The industry is at an exciting – and challenging – point in its evolution, with many different pathways it could take into the future.

Through our Delta-ee Gas Heating Service, we are helping companies understand what this future could look like. On Thursday July 13th, we will be holding our public webinar: “Beyond the boiler: how is the future for gas-based heating emerging today?” click here to register.

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CES 2016: What happens in Vegas... is relevant for the energy industry!

Sue Furnell and I went to the CES in sunny Las Vegas, to explore the latest innovations of the global connected home market. Since there are dozens of good reviews about the event online (example links below this blog) we thought there was no reason to re-invent the wheel. Instead, we  have endeavoured to make our review as relevant as possible for your businesses. Here are our takeaways:

  1. There is a large number of ecosystems connecting different devices together. Here are a few names I collected while walking around but there were many more: Orvibo, Securifi, Insteon, Green Peak, Smartlife IoT, Savant, Gooee, Côr, Wisilica, Zipato, Ubiant, Myxity, Evey, Muzzley… and this was on top of the use cases developed by the alliances like Zigbee, Allseen, Thread, Homekit or Z-Wave. Some of these are providing hubs centralising the connectivity between devices, some provide white label platforms, and some simply provide a physical remote control. Most of these will fail to secure scale as the market develops and there will only be a small number of winners.

  2. As we explained in our latest Connected Home Service report (the state of the connected home market beyond energy), wearables for health and fitness are becoming huge. The key companies like Fitbit and Withings had the biggest booths of the West Tech area and put on shows to attract the public. This is where the volumes are today globally in the connected device arena.

  3. The peace of mind vertical has never been so crowded, with dozens of security cameras being showcased.
    1. Netatmo announced its well-designed outdoor camera (called Presence) which adds to the indoor one (Welcome).
    2. The French company, Myfox, also presented a discrete camera they recently launched. The company is now working with the insurance expert AXA in France, who wants to use connected security products to add to its service portfolio.
    3. Other brands exhibiting cameras included: Homeguard, Piper, Canary, Côr, Smanos, Blink, First Alert, Hubble, Elarm, iControl, Amcrest… Once again, we doubt all these brands will survive the connected home market expansion.

  4. The large and global platforms like Allseen and Homekit start to create some momentum
    1. A few companies such as Honeywell were showing their products with the newly Homekit compatibility. Building the products on the standard required a lot of effort and needed around 18 months of development (since Homekit was announced) to achieve the seamless user experience Apple required.
    2. The number of Allseen Alliance (which runs on the AllJoyn protocol) members hasn’t stopped growing in the last few months but so far the penetration of AllJoyn ready devices remained low. This now starts to evolve in the right direction as TV companies like LG announced several hundreds of thousands of AllJoyn-ready smart TVs sold in the world.

  5. As for the energy part of connected home:
    1. The Nest and Lyrics (Honeywell) thermostats were present on a lot of booths. It seems those two will be the dominant products in the US smart thermostat market.
    2. New ‘European’ smart thermostats have been announced and received awards from the CES: Engie with its budget thermostat called Homni, where the end-user can set a budget for the month for heating instead of setting up the temperature. Ween – an automated smart thermostat based on presence sensor and geo-localisation – has also been shown to the public.
    3. Eliq, a Swedish connected home start-up, exposed its energy monitoring device which reads the smart meter data. What’s really interesting is that it is now sold by Ikea in Sweden (for ~€59) who could be one of the disruptive retailers for connected home products. There hasn’t been much push from IKEA yet though, but we expect this might change soon as the company is on a learning curve with this market.
    4. Bosch exposed similar use cases for their boiler at the CES as in last year’s event ISH in Frankfurt. The remote diagnostic software was demonstrated on both the installer and the user side. However the development remains in trials and hasn’t been launched commercially yet.

The event itself is without a doubt the best event of the year to find out the latest connected home trends and innovations. I would recommend it to anyone looking at this space from any angle. We would be delighted to discuss this more in depth with you individually or to exchange views if you were there as well, so please feel free to get in touch, my email is [email protected]

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Arthur Jouannic
Hello Arjan, Indeed the WiFi HaLow has been announced at the CES. People I spoke about this with seemed to be adopting a 'wait an... Read More
Tuesday, 19 January 2016 15:52
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Even with a long term reduction in gas and oil prices, the boiler market is under threat to 2025

A long term reduction in gas and oil prices has minimal impact on our forecasts for the European heating market to 2025, with a range of emerging technologies continuing to threaten the dominance of the traditional boiler across Europe as the share of oil and gas boilers declines.

This highlights that key players and energy suppliers need to continue to embrace higher efficient and lower carbon heating products, even in the light of the lower fuel prices we are currently experiencing.

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Worcester, Bosch Group ‘Environment 2020’ awards luncheon – recognising the critical role of installers in a transforming heating market

I had the pleasure yesterday of being invited by Worcester, Bosch Group to attend their ‘Environment 2020’ annual awards luncheon.  Now in its 15th year this event is an annual competition organised to recognise and reward installers who take an environmentally responsible approach to their work.  Not only did I present the awards to nine worthy winners, but I also had the opportunity to have my picture taken with Bobby the Boiler who gave the awards in the children’s art competition.

Some of the projects were interesting pairings of traditional heating and hot water sources with renewables technologies.  I presented a few findings from Microgen Insight Service, encouraging installers to be open to working with new technologies and business models. 

Low carbon and renewable technologies will be a big part of the future heating market. There are question marks about how quickly and to what degree, but the direction of travel is clear.  It depends on policy and the right products being available – but regardless of these, installers have a critical role to play to help grow the market.

At the event, I heard anecdotal evidence that customers are actually starting to ask installers for their preferred smart thermostat or control system – something that would never have been heard of in the past when customers basically took what their installer gave them. But with the advent of high profile products from utilities (eg British Gas Hive), manufacturers (eg Worcester, Bosch Group Wave) and start-ups (eg Nest, acquired by Google), customers are becoming aware and informed.

This supports what Delta-ee has been saying to our clients for some time, that there is the potential for disintermediation in the energy value chain.  And, depending on a company’s existing routes to market and brand positioning, there could be big opportunities or threats. We see this as a key theme in the distributed energy market, and different aspects are examined in detail in both our Connected Home Service and Energy Services Innovation research.

There seemed to be mixed views regarding the RHI, with some thinking that it still has promise and could lead to more customers buying low carbon products but others believe it to be too complex and the RHI simply doesn’t help many customers with their main problem: upfront cost. 

Delta-ee are still cautiously optimistic, but industry support and promotion of the RHI scheme remains low key.  I’ve noticed, for example, that in manufacturers’ product brochures the RHI sometimes appears almost as a footnote. For the RHI to have an impact, it needs a much stronger push than that. For our latest research into customer awareness of the RHI see Jennifer’s recent blog on our RHI tracker.   

If you want to know more details about the Worcester, Bosch Group 2014 award winners and their projects, get in touch with me.

Many thanks to Worcester, Bosch Group for the invitation to attend the event and visit their factory.  It’s good to see the industry celebrating success and the high quality work from their installers, who have a vital role to play in the transforming energy market.
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Is remote diagnostic the new connected home trend?

When Delta-ee first looked at the connected home space many years ago, there was a fashion for selling or giving away energy monitoring devices. We coined the phrase “average time to kitchen drawer”, which we thought could be as little as two weeks: end-users lose interest in energy monitoring devices very quickly.  From 2012, a new trend emerged - with the beginning of the remote heating control market through smart thermostats.

Now, many energy suppliers and heating appliance manufacturers offer smart thermostats, and recent sales numbers start to demonstrate their potential. These products can now be bought on Amazon, in shops, through different platforms, from an energy supplier or even alongside a boiler installation. Through our Connected Home Service we’ve analysed 48 of these products in our InfoBase – and that doesn’t cover every single product!

So what do we expect from the 2014 heating season?

The IFA event in Berlin has seen lots of announcements of products being brought to more markets – for example Nest will soon be available in France, Belgium, Netherlands and Ireland – and of innovations from the giant appliance manufacturers such as Phillips, Samsung, Apple etc.

Despite all these movements from some big names, there is a new connected home trend starting to emerge: remote boiler diagnostics. Although they are not marketing it strongly for now, some leading connected home players are already active in this field. We think it could be much more than a passing fad.

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