Household costs at your fingertips

Environexus enables any home to be a smart home. Anneli Knight reports.

Environexus enables any home to be a smart home. Anneli Knight reports.

Having a "smart home" means controlling every device in the house with a click on the screen of your smartphone or tablet. Until recently, this technology has been limited to new homes, but Melbourne technology group Environexus has created a way to retrofit any home. And the business is about to take on the world.

The Environexus solution is a software application that links with a cloud-based server to give home owners real-time information about how much every individual light and electronic device costs to run.

Chief executive Chris Hall said: "If you've got internet in the home, if you've got a smartphone and an existing light switch, you already have about 80 per cent of what you need to be able to turn it into a smart home. Effectively all we're doing is adding the intelligence to the products they already have."

Because Environexus uses wireless rather than cabling, it has also reduced the average cost of creating a smart home from $10,000 to $15,000 to about $2000, Mr Hall says.

Smart meters are being touted as a way to become more sustainable and reduce soaring energy bills, but most products only offer one reading across the entire home.

"If you were to say to most people: 'You are currently using X amount of watts per hour', that is not actually relevant information they can do anything with," Mr Hall says.

"We send that to the server, and that server profiles the information and returns relevant information such as how much is that device costing me at the moment, how much does that device cost me today, how much is that device likely to cost me over the next months and years if I continue to use it in the same way I'm using it at the moment."

Users can flick switches from the comfort of their home, or anywhere in the world. "We had a customer recently who was visiting Singapore. He told his software he was going on holiday and he got an alert on his phone to say his heating system was spending $5 per day and he realised he'd left it on. From Singapore, he opened the application, turned off the heater and effectively saved $5 a day on his trip," Mr Hall said.

The technology interacts with other devices in the home such as locks, burglar alarms and smoke detectors to provide information for energy usage and security.

A recent partnership with lock-maker Lockwood has extended the application so it can automatically respond when people come and go from their home, switching lights and devices on and off as pre-programmed by the user.

As well as the practical uses of monitoring and managing devices, the Environexus application allows users to set up mood lighting or "scenes" within the home with the touch of a button.

"You can press 'movie mode' when you're sitting down on a Saturday night to watch a movie and this can dim the lights, turn on your TV and amplifier and switch off some of the lights around the house."

The idea for Environexus was sparked four years ago after co-founder Bill Boyaci, with a background in the building industry, received a call from a major utility company seeking solutions for energy management.

In late 2010, Mr Boyaci joined forces with Mr Hall, who had been working in sales and marketing for technology company Pioneer Electronics, David McGary, former general manager of Clipsal, and Gengiz Ozdemir, who had a home-security business.

The four entrepreneurs funded the development of the software and interactive cloud-based server technology, which was released to the Australian market early last year. Environexus now has its sights set on global expansion.

Mr Hall said they had signed off on two agreements and were in talks for other markets. Europe, the US and China were next.

"Four or five years ago at a typical family get together if you asked anyone if they knew how much they were paying for electricity you'd be greeted with silence. Electricity prices are now so high, people are aware of what they're paying on their bill, but consumers still feel unempowered," he said.

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