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Heating systems across Britain can now learn to text

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British Gas

British Gas wants to text its customers the second it detects a problem with their heating system. To do that, it's starting a program called Boiler IQ. Customers who sign up will essentially have their boiler retrofitted with smart home tech that's capable of reporting many issues the boiler's having back to British Gas. When there's a problem, the homeowner will receive a text suggesting that they book a service appointment; if they don't respond, British Gas will go ahead and call them to try to set one up.

"Usually heating breaks 19 to 24 hours before [homeowners] call us."

It's a neat idea that could really be a convenience for homeowners when their heating system break down. "Usually heating breaks 19 to 24 hours before [homeowners] call us — usually because they're at work, busy, don't notice it," says Kassir Hussain, director of British Gas' Connected Homes division. "Now when it goes pop," he says, you'll get a call shortly thereafter. And because British Gas can see many errors reported by a boiler, its service team may know the parts they need to complete a repair.

British Gas is the largest energy company in the UK, so its Boiler IQ service could eventually roll out to a huge base of customers. Right now, the company says there are about 2 million boilers in the UK that are able to be retrofitted.

But while it sounds like a handy service, the implementation isn't necessarily ideal. Boiler IQ has to connect to a ZigBee-compatible smart home hub, which itself has to connect to your router. British Gas will also charge customers a monthly monitoring fee, on top of the actual purchase and installation fee. It hasn't announced what the service or device will cost just yet.

Even if Boiler IQ isn't something everyone will want to try right away, it's an interesting peek at how complex components of the home could get simpler to deal with over time. The boilers that British Gas hopes to retrofit can already monitor their operations for errors; it's not hard to imagine that in the future, they'll be wired by default to report those problems to speed up repairs.