Software could reduce power bills
Christchurch software firm Cortexo is showing Meridian customers how to save money on their power bills.
The power company is trialling Cortexo's energy-monitoring software for three months, and about 3500 Meridian customers have signed up for the service.
Cortexo's energymonitoring software draws data from Arc Innovation's smart meters at Meridian Energy customer sites and presents that information to electricity customers the next day in a "daily energy report" email detailing how much power the customer used, at what times and at what cost.
Now Meridian plans to extend the trial offer to 40,000 Christchurch customers in the next few weeks.
To gear up for expected growth in demand for this software, plus other projects, Cortexo is looking to hire three new staff members. Considering the firm now has just five staff, it is a significant jump in numbers.
The company has just moved back to its Manchester St premises after the February 22 earthquake. On the day of the quake, technical director Jonathan Wilson had the nous to remind staff, once they emerged from beneath their desks, to take their laptops when they left the building.
That enabled staff to work from home for the next six months and eight days. Staff had a daily morning conference call, a weekly lunch, optional Friday night drinks and a fortnightly full-day face-to-face at a staff member's home to get projects realigned.
"We have learnt to operate as a virtual company," managing director Terry Paddy said.
But not having high-speed internet connections at home had proved challenging for transferring massive amounts of data, and it had been good to return to their building.
Paddy said previously consumers had not had enough information about their electricity usage which made it difficult to keep a close eye on their power bills and adjust their electricity usage.
"My view is, people hate their power companies, because they have no control," he said.
"This service gives them clear and timely information about how much power they are using and when, enabling them to make smarter decisions about electricity use."
But how did Cortexo convince a power company to let it show customers how to spend less on power?
The argument lay in good customer service which would attract and retain customers, Paddy said.
That could be expanded to include a smart energy-portal online service, which gave more detailed analysis of power usage and could give a projected budget – a forecast of what your power bill would be at the end of the month.
The software firm is also involved in a number of energy monitoring projects, such as building smart appliance capabilities into Fisher & Paykel whiteware, providing data for international customers of WhisperTech energy generators, and helping Flowtech monitor their biogas processors world-wide.
Cortexo's remote monitoring and control software was initially designed for engineering monitoring and support, so an engineer could access performance information via the internet for quality monitoring and could change settings remotely if necessary.
That can be adapted to a retail customer's appliances in the home. So one day a customer could receive a call from their whiteware manufacturer saying "Mrs Jones, your compressor unit in your deep freeze is about to fail and a technician is on their way out to you now to fix that" before a customer was even aware of a problem, Paddy said.
"It is a little Big Brother-ish," he admitted, but said the portal was designed to be customer focused and would only work if customers opted-in for the service by flicking a virtual switch online to allow that kind of monitoring to kick in, he said.
It could also enable customers to manage their electricity usage remotely, by being able to log in to the portal and remotely switch on the central heating at home just before they left work for the day, for example.
Cortexo's main challenge now is growth – the firm wants to take its software to other power companies, and also sees a potential market in irrigation monitoring and control.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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