British Gas has revealed that over 50,000 Brits are now using its apps to control their heating, less a week after Google spent $3.2 billion (£2.5bn) on ‘smart’ home appliance maker Nest.
Over 10,000 homes have installed British Gas’ new ‘smart’ thermostat, Hive Active Heating, since its launch last September, while tens of thousands have also installed an earlier product, Remote Heating Control.
Both let customers control their heating through a smartphone app while Hive also lets people control hot water. British Gas estimates that the products could save consumers up to £150 a year on their energy bills.
News of the products’ success comes the week after Google acquired Californian-based Nest Labs, which makes ‘smart’ appliances such as thermostats and smoke alarms. The company was founded by former Apple executive Tony Fadell, dubbed the “godfather of the iPod”.
Google is one of a number of big companies developing ‘smart’ products for the home – internet-connected appliance that can be controlled from smartphones and tablets. Earlier this month Samsung showcased its vision of a 'smart' home at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
Nina Bhatia, managing director of British Gas’ Connected Homes division, said the interest of these tech giants was a good thing. She said: “More competitors in this space will do better for consumers. The advantage we have is we are in UK homes. Our engineers are walking into 50,000 UK homes every day.”
Bhatia said her division was working on new features and products that would see British Gas move increasingly into consumer electronics, saying: “We have quite significant ambitions in this space – imagine if you left work and you’re smartphone knew that you were leaving and prompted you to turn off your heating.”
Bhatia also said British Gas “wouldn’t rule out acquisitions” to boost its clout in the area. London-based AlertMe currently provides the white label technology used in the Hive Active Heating system on a partnership basis.
AlertMe’s chief executive Mary Turner said there was increasing interest in the company from telecoms and utility firms and would not rule out the sale of the company, saying AlertMe was “talking to big companies on an ongoing basis”. But Turner, the former chief executive of internet provider Tiscali, stressed that the firm was “considering all options”.