Microsoft shifts Hohm away from homes, focuses on electric cars

Microsoft unveiled the Hohm service in order to help home owners get a better sense of their energy consumption. But nearly two years after the launch, the concept appears to be moving from the home to the driveway. Faced with slow adoption by utilities and consumers, Microsoft’s chief environmental strategist Rob Bernard said this week that the company plans to pivot from home-energy monitoring to electrical vehicle charging as part of a larger partnership with Ford Motor Co.

“We aren’t seeing the level of traction in home monitoring than we had hoped for so we’re increasing our focus on EVs and making them more connected,” Bernard said at the Fortune Brainstorm Green conference in Laguna Nigel, California.

Cnet has full details on the shift, noting that Microsoft’s Hohm service will be used to determine the most cost-effective times to charge electric vehicles. The new version of the service is expected to be available this fall, according to the report.

Interestingly, the refocused direction reminds us of the path taken by former Microsoft manager David Kaplan, who in 2007 created a similar EV-charging analytics system at V2Green. The startup was eventually sold to GridPoint, and Kaplan ended up suing the company over terms of his employment contract.

The new direction for Hohm also may create an opportunity for another Seattle startup created by ex-Microsofties. EnergySavvy, led by former Microsoft group program manager Aaron Goldfeder, also works with consumers to provide detailed reports on home-energy usage. We’ve reached out to Goldfeder for his reactions, and we’ll update the post if we hear more.

Microsoft also faced competition from PowerMeter, the home-energy monitoring service from Google.

To be clear, Microsoft isn’t backing off completely from Hohm as a home energy monitoring service. According to Cnet, the company will continue to offer it to utilities and consumers.

But Bernard offered a little more perspective on the challenges of the business, noting that it has been hard to get consumers to fill out the questionnaires needed for the home energy audits and utilities aren’t always motivated to participate.

Among the early adopters of the Hohm service were Puget Sound Energy; Sacramento Municipal Utility District; Seattle City Light; and Xcel Energy.

Update: Here’s what Goldfeder had to say about the new direction for Hohm:

We congratulate Microsoft on their agile approach here. There’s a huge opportunity in electric vehicles and developing systems to help them play nicely on the grid is fundamental to how we advance energy efficiency goals.

John Cook is co-founder of GeekWire. Follow on Twitter: @geekwirenews and Facebook.

  • guest

    Puget Sound Energy was an early adopter? Too bad it was in the 98052.

    • guest

      /was/was not/ – I really wanted to use this service but PSE never got hooked up in Redmond.

      • guest

        PSE customers can still utilize Microsoft Hohm as they have partnered with Blue Line which has a sensor and a WiFi gateway to get the data to Hohm.