Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Japan firms team up to manage energy usage data

Steve Rogerson
October 8, 2015
 
Japanese companies Rakuten and Ubiquitous are jointly developing a cloud-based service platform using energy consumption data collected from residential home energy management equipment
 
In preparation for the liberalisation of the retail electricity market, the two companies plan to carry out the joint development of a platform linking Rakuten’s services with Ubiquitous’ IoT platforms and embedded software technology. Residential electricity consumption data will be uploaded to the cloud where corporate users can analyse this information and provide optimal energy-related services to retail consumers.
 
The companies have been collaborating on the development of simple home energy management equipment that collects data on energy consumption from smart meters and automatically uploads it to the cloud and have been looking into establishing new services using these data.
 
From research carried out by Rakuten on the liberalisation of the retail electricity market, it has become clear that there is demand from consumers for services related to home energy management, such as systems that allow customers to choose the most appropriate price of electricity from a variety of options, services to protect the elderly by alerting when electricity usage differs from normal usage patterns and the most appropriate control of equipment. To meet these needs the two companies have agreed to develop platforms necessary for the smart home of the future.
 
In the first stage, the two companies will jointly develop a cloud service that automatically stores data on home energy usage acquired by smart meters. By providing this service in combination with other services, the two companies will support corporate users aiming to develop new services using home energy management systems.
 
Since 2014 the Ministry of Economy, Trade & Industry of Japan (METI) allocated approximately ¥4bn for large-scale energy infrastructure development. With the expected addition of services, including distribution of device monitors, and coupons, the market is expected to expand.
 
Visualisation and control of energy has been made possible by the collection of data on energy consumption from smart meters by various devices around the home via the Echonet Lite communications protocol. However, with current home energy management devices, the visualisation and management of energy consumption are mostly limited to on-site use. In cases where the service is connected to the cloud, each service provider uses its own proprietary specifications.
 
In addition, with the usage of different communications protocols in Japan, it will become difficult for consumers to understand which devices they can use in their home, reducing the convenience of home energy management.
 
To expand the market for services using information from home devices, it is necessary to set up an environment that allows devices with different communications protocols to connect to the cloud.
 
Rakuten and Ubiquitous both believe the smart homes of the future will require not just a cloud service platform, but a seamlessly connected environment between cloud services, the home network and energy management devices that allows consumers to use devices on their home network regardless of which communications protocol the device may support. The two companies aim to develop a communications protocol to connect home network devices with cloud services to create the smart home of the future.
 
Since 2011 Ubiquitous has developed IoT service platforms, home energy management services using the cloud, devices and software development kits for developing Echonet Lite compatible devices for creating next-generation smart homes. By developing its products, service platforms and technical capabilities, Ubiquitous aims to gain a larger share of the market by partnering with Rakuten.
 
In October 2014, Rakuten established the Energy Demand Development Limited Liability Partnership and worked on the development of simple home energy management systems, and from summer this year the company has been making preparations for the electricity retailing business for low-voltage users, and has been looking into developing new services that bring merit to customers.
 
Rakuten aims to use the big data it will gather on energy usage in new services, and at the same time hopes it will help in building a service development platform for electricity customers in this collaboration. Rakuten aims first to develop the service domestically in Japan, with a view to forming consortiums with a number of local businesses and governments, and then expand the service as a global shared platform, with a focus on Asia markets.