British Gas has taken the wraps off of Hive, a new smart home service that’ll let customers control heating and hot water from their iOS or Android device.
Hive is an upgrade to the previous Remote Heating Control service which launched last year and boasts a revamped mobile UI. The overall concept however is basically the same, but perhaps the crucial difference is that Hive also lets you control hot water as well as the heating.
A smart thermostat connected to your boiler will talk to your phone or tablet via a wireless hub connected to your home broadband router. This lets you manually tinker with the temperature when you’re on the commute home.
While you can crank the temperature so that the heaters are blazing the minute you step in the door, you can set up schedules to regulate heating throughout the day or throughout the whole week if you wish.
Early risers can turn on quick hour-long bursts of hot water if they want to jump in the shower first thing in the morning.
The service will cost £199, which includes all of the equipment plus an engineer visit. While this is a big investment, British Gas estimates that putting customers in control of their energy output will save them up to £150 a year. In theory you’ll have earned that cost back within 18 months.
Nina Bhatia, Managing Director British Gas Connected Homes, Strategy and Mergers & Acquisitions is hoping that Hive will tap into a large seam of interested customers keen on driving down energy bills.
Speaking at the Hive launch event, Bhatia said: “British Gas cares and I care because we have a unique position with 12 million customers in the home.
“With almost 22 million households in the UK connected to the internet, and mobile phone use almost universal among adults, we are increasingly relying on technology to manage everyday activities.
“However, at the core of our homes and in the way we use energy, there has been limited innovation since the mass adoption of central heating in the 1970s.
“By combining the heritage of British Gas with a new brand, Hive by British Gas, we will revolutionise the way we manage our homes, making the connected home, where devices communicate with people or each other via the internet, a reality."
Hive is by no means the first remote energy solution we’ve seen from a major energy provider in the UK. E.ON’s smart home monitor has been installed in over 224,000 homes and is on course to be in a million by 2015. The supplier-agnostic Valta is on course to launch in the UK sometime next year and like Hive lets you keep tabs on your energy consumption from your phone.
We were able to get some brief hands-on time with the Hive app on an iPhone 5 and Google Nexus 4. In terms of design and function the apps are identical and will be released at the same time.
On the hardware side of things there’s three boxes, the thermostat itself which acts as a static control panel for your boiler plus a wireless hub and receiver to handle communications.
Hive launches in late October but interested customers can pre-register now at hivehome.com.