If the European Union has its way, consumers will know much more than ever before about their electricity consumption from 2022 at the latest. By then, 80 percent of European households with an annual consumption of over 6,000 kilowatt hours will be equipped with smart meters. Smart meters allow users to check their electricity consumption online anytime and anywhere, and to regulate it if necessary. To this end, they collect data containing a host of information on a household's habits. As a result, data privacy activists are quite skeptical of this development.
The RWE Group, which supplies electricity to over 16 million households in Germany, is already testing these smart meters. RWE is already now leader on the German market for smart home products, which allow users to control sockets or close shutters remotely with their smartphones, for example. But that's just the tip of the iceberg. Under the surface, innovation is becoming a seismic force at RWE.
With its Innovation Hub, RWE has created an interdisciplinary unit to pursue innovative ideas in four distinct areas, and turn promising concepts into concrete projects as quickly as possible. "Smart & Connected Home" is just one of those; the others are "Big Data", "Disruptive Digitization" and "Holistic Energy Manager". "The Innovation Hub’s goal is to find entirely new products and services based on RWE's current range, which add value for our customers and have the potential to disrupt existing markets," says Stefanie Kemp, Head of the "Disruptive Digitisation" Lighthouse Project at RWE.
Examples include electric vehicle sharing services, or a project which provides house owners with individual solar roof proposals. "The Innovation Hub is not an actual department in the corporate organisational structure, it's an interface for internal and external experts in different fields. That enables us to identify interesting projects we can quickly develop into real products or services," says Stefanie Kemp. RWE’s search is not limited to Germany, the energy corporation is also building relationships in the innovation ecosystems in Silicon Valley, Tel Aviv and Berlin to work as closely as possible with founders.
As part of this process, RWE is also using CeBIT as a platform to find and attract partners. During the "Utility" industry day on March 16, it will listen to pitches from startups. Nine startups will be presenting their energy-related ideas on the main stage of the SCALE 11 innovator convention. "Not every idea is destined for success," admits Dirk Homuth, Project Lead of the "Disruptive Digitisation" Project in the Innovation Hub. "With our expertise, resources and infrastructure, we offer an excellent basis for progressing projects rapidly together with the innovator, and readying them for the market."
Homuth adds that this is the motivation for the nine competing presenters selected in the run-up to CeBIT by the Association of German Startups and RWE.
"But we won't be bringing a briefcase full of cash with us, we are offering our services as a partner with significant resources"
The Innovation Hub’s connections to all areas are so good that it can establish the right contacts to the appropriate departments within RWE. Ideally, this means an actual product can be created quickly, which can then be offered to RWE's customers nationwide and throughout Europe.