Automating and controlling devices and energy usage in homes has potentially become a bit easier thanks to an integration between Span, the startup making a digital fusebox replacement, and Amazon's voice recognition interface, Alexa.
Through the Alexa integration, homeowners using Span's electrical panels can turn on or off any circuit or appliance in their home, monitor which appliances are using power, and determine which electrical source is generating the most power for a home.
Questions like "Alexa, ask Span what is consuming the most power right now?" will get a response. The Alexa integration opens up new opportunities for home owners to integrate their devices and appliances, because of the connection to the home's wiring, according to Span chief executive, Arch Rao.
Rao sees the Alexa integration as a way for Span to become the home automation hub that tech companies have been promising for a long time. "There are far too many devices in the home today... with too many apps," Rao said. "The advantage we have is, once installed, we're persistent in the home and connected to everything electric in the home for the next 30 to 40 years."
In addition to monitoring energy usage and output, Alexa commands could turn off the power for any device or switch that a homeowner has programmed into the system.
"The most material way to state it is, our panel is providing a virtual interface to the home in the build environment," said Rao. "We're building a very capable edge device... it becomes sort of a true aggregation point and nerve center to give you real-time visibility and control."
Going forward, Rao envisions Span integrating with other devices like water sensors, fire alarm sensors, and other equipment to provide other types of controls that could be useful for insurers like Munich Re.
With the $20 million that the company raised, Rao intends to significantly increase sales and marketing efforts working through partners like Munich Re and Amazon to get Span's devices into as many homes as possible.
The company has significant tailwinds thanks to home automation and energy efficiency upgrade efforts that are now wending their way through Washington, but could mean subsidies for the deployment of technology's like Span's electric panels.
Rao also intends to boost headcount at Span. The company currently has 35 employees and Rao would like to see that number double to roughly 70 by the end of the year.
Span's growth is part of a broad movement in home technologies toward increasingly sustainable options. In many cases that's the penetration of electrical appliances in things like water heaters and stove tops, but also the integration of electric vehicle charging stations, home energy storage units, and other devices that push energy generation and management to the edge of electricity grids.
"It's cutting that pipe that’s bringing natural gas to the home and bringing all electric everything… as consumers are continuing to cut the cord on fossils, your existing home system is not efficient. That’s one ecosystem of products where we are starting to see partnership opportunities," Rao said. "When it comes to applications like monitoring the health of your appliances… and services to the home. Having the data that we provide will be unprecedented."