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Service promises to keep energy bills down and an eye on grandma

Is today’s smart home technology, which connects a household’s appliances to the Internet, ready for tomorrow? It’s getting there. Companies are now carrying out pilot projects to determine how much and what other kinds of utility these connections can offer consumers.

Mitsubishi is conducting an experiment to connect its HEMS with the Internet at its Ofuna Smart House, a white-and-gray detached house built near JR Ofuna Station in Kanagawa Prefecture. The company’s technology enables users to monitor the use of air conditioners and lights via a personal computer. It also allows service providers to send news on disaster prevention to households. Mitsubishi Electric, which plans to commercialize the technology later this fiscal year, recently aimed a sales pitch at homebuilders.

Some might only want to use the technology to control their TVs, air conditioners and lights from outside the home. Others might want to use it to check in on elderly parents living alone. Industry not only wants to give houses energy-saving capabilities, it also wants to offer other types of “intelligence.”

The home energy management system (HEMS) is primarily designed to help users save electricity. It networks home appliances and provides users with detailed insight into power consumption. But data collected through the system can also be used for other purposes. It can let users know whether lights and other network-connected home appliances are left on. When sensors are installed, it can also visualize the amount of water consumed in the bathroom and elsewhere around the house, as well as automatically open and close windows.

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