The question “Why does my fridge / washing machine / dryer need an internet connection?” is a good one: a phone notification that your wash is done is far from life-changing. But if adding smarts to your white goods could save you some cash, it might be another story.
With a connection to the internet, appliances can automatically shift and reduce their energy use through demand response programs to save you money. But today, this can be fiddly and confusing to set up; it’s also not widely available.
This is a problem the Home Connectivity Alliance (HCA) is trying to solve with a new Energy Management Interface specification it launched at CES this week — and it could be a big step toward expanding demand response adoption.
HCA members can implement a feature that “seamlessly connects their devices to demand response programs”
Founded in 2021, the HCA is an industry alliance spearheaded by Samsung and LG to promote interoperability between large appliance manufacturers so that you don’t have to have all one brand of appliance in your home to take advantage of smart benefits.
The new Energy Management Interface spec allows HCA members to implement a feature that makes it easier to connect all their appliance types to demand response programs from utilities or demand response providers (aggregators). “This eliminates the need to create individual integrations for each appliance type and with individual utilities,” HCA board director Linsey Miller of Resideo (maker of Honeywell Home thermostats) said in an interview with The Verge. It also allows enrolled appliances to provide notifications of demand response events and then track how well an appliance participated, she explained.
Demand response is a core function of the smart grid; it helps homes use less energy and can lead to energy companies rewarding customers for cutting back during peak times. Smart connected appliances can use software to automatically make small shifts or reductions in use in sync with the needs of the grid to save you money automatically.
Currently, manufacturers have to set up individual integrations with individual appliances and individual utilities to connect to demand response energy savings programs, says Miller. Often, homeowners have to manage each integration in separate apps. As a result, adoption has been slow outside of smart thermostats, solar power / battery storage, and EV chargers. This spec is designed to accelerate the connection of smart appliances with the smart grid.
LG, Samsung, Haier, Frigidaire, and more are on board
HCA’s membership represents a significant slice of the global appliance market, including LG, Samsung, Haier, Frigidaire, Beko, Electrolux, American Standard, Midea, and HVAC companies Trane and Resideo. However, Whirlpool and Bosch / Thermador are two big brands conspicuous in their absence.
At CES 2023, HCA launched its interoperability spec to allow appliances from any member manufacturer to be controlled in another member’s app. So far, only three manufacturers have implemented this: LG, Samsung, and Vestel. So, while the opportunities are here, adoption may not be speedy.
That specification did lay the groundwork for the move into energy management, as it created a pathway for communication between devices from different manufacturers. The end result should be that if you have, say, an LG TV, a Honeywell Home smart thermostat, a Samsung fridge, and an Electrolux washer / dryer, you could choose to sign up all of your appliances to your utility’s demand response program through one app with one integration.
The HCA has similar goals to the new Matter smart home standard, but where Matter covers a wide range of device types and is focused on local control, HCA only covers large appliances, HVAC systems, and TVs, and it uses cloud-to-cloud integrations. HCA president Yoon Ho Choi, who also leads IoT business planning and partnerships at Samsung Electronics, says this is imperative for backward compatibility (people don't buy new appliances every couple of years).
Like Matter, HCA’s members represent a coming together of fierce competitors in the space to solve a common problem. Many companies are members of both groups. Choi hasn’t ruled out the possibility of a convergence between Matter and the HCA at some point but says there are no current plans.
For now, Choi says the goal is to put appliance manufacturers “in the best position to determine the energy management potential of connected appliances” — and ultimately, lower the costs for consumers.
Correction January 8th, 3:25PM ET: Due to an editing error, this story initially misidentified Choi as the CEO of Samsung SDI; that is a different Yoon Ho Choi.