Microsoft Hohm's Goal Is a Greener Home

Microsoft will launch Hohm, a Website designed for consumers looking to monitor and regulate their homes' energy consumption, as the next part of its "green IT" initiatives. Earlier in the year, Microsoft launched its Environmental Sustainability Dashboard for Microsoft Dynamics AX, with the aim of bringing that same sort of granular energy-monitoring to the enterprise and SMBs. An increasing number of IT companies have been trying to capitalize on eco-friendly trends through new waves of "green" products and services.

Microsoft is releasing the beta version of Hohm, a new Website that allows consumers to track their homes' energy consumption, with an eye toward reducing their power costs. Based on users' input, the site will make calculations and recommendations about how the home's energy power usage can be fine-tuned to save money.

The site, which will launch at an unspecified time within the next few days and can be accessed here, will run on any Internet browser, including Internet Explorer, Firefox or Safari.

Hohm starts off by asking new users for two things: their postal code and e-mail address. Those already using Microsoft Live will find that Hohm uses their account information in order to fill in those details.

From there, users are directed to "My Hohm Center," which functions as the dashboard for tracking energy consumption, as well as receiving environmentally friendly tips. Users fill out a home profile, which drills down into questions such as "What type of energy does your water heater use?" While many of the questions are broad-based, Hohm also allows users to drill down to a far deeper level via nearly 200 questions relating to their energy use.

Microsoft has also partnered with a handful of utility companies, allowing their customers to have their energy-consumption information automatically uploaded into Hohm; otherwise, that information will have to be input manually.

Four utility companies have signed on with Microsoft for the launch, with six more expected to follow by the end of the year.

As output, Hohm offers "Your Home Energy Report," which provides energy-savings recommendations ("Lower the temperature setting on your water heater") and an estimated cost breakdown. The company claims it uses analytics licensed from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the Department of Energy to calculate those energy-saving recommendations.

The code name for the project was Niagara, "chosen because of it being the birthplace of modern electricity, with Tesla there making the modern electrical home possible," Troy Batterberry, product unit manager for Microsoft's Energy Management and Home Automation division, said in an interview with eWEEK.

The site will be free for users, and while Batterberry hinted that "contextual advertising opportunities" may eventually present themselves, Microsoft expects the project to start as a loss leader. The application may leave beta within a 6- to- 9-month timeframe, depending on the sort of input that Microsoft receives from users.

Microsoft and other IT companies have been rolling out a number of "green IT" applications throughout 2009.

In February, Microsoft launched its Environmental Sustainability Dashboard for Microsoft Dynamics AX, designed to assist executives and IT administrators in reducing their carbon footprint via the monitoring of energy costs, greenhouse gas emissions and other factors.

With the recession forcing businesses to streamline their costs in virtually every area, more of the enterprise and SMBs have been turning to carbon-footprint-reducing tools as a way to both save money and offer an "eco-friendly" image. To meet that demand, companies ranging from Microsoft and Google to IBM, Cisco and Hewlett-Packard have been offering a variety of "green" products and services.

Starting with a customizable page titled "My Role Center," which displays customizable environmental information such as "Greenhouse Gas Emissions," "KPI List," and "Energy Consumption," the Environmental Sustainability Dashboard allows for drilling down into various topics and metrics-for example, a user could create a new tab for a utility company, input the units and quantity to be tracked, and let the application gather the relevant data.