Honeywell buys into building-efficiency software

Building automation giant buys Akuacom, a small company that makes software for demand-response and smart-grid programs.

Martin LaMonica Former Staff writer, CNET News
Martin LaMonica is a senior writer covering green tech and cutting-edge technologies. He joined CNET in 2002 to cover enterprise IT and Web development and was previously executive editor of IT publication InfoWorld.
Martin LaMonica
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Honeywell has acquired Akuacom, a small, private company that makes demand-response and smart-grid software for commercial buildings.

The acquisition is expected to enhance the company's existing building-control equipment and efficiency services, Honeywell Building Solutions said Friday. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Akuacom makes a Web-based program designed for demand-response programs in which a utility seeks to "shed load," or lower energy consumption of its customers, during peak times.

By curtailing use during times of heavy demand, such as a hot day when the air conditioning load is high, utilities can avoid turning on costly and polluting "peaker" power plants. For industrial and commercial customers, participating in a demand-response program could mean turning off a fan in factory or dimming the lights in a supermarket for 15 minutes. Customers are paid for shedding load.

Diagram of a demand-response program in which utilities use software to lower consumption of commercial customers during peak times. Akuacom

San Rafael, Calif.-based Akuacom's software is designed to streamline the information between the utility and commercial customers. The software takes demand-response signals from utilities and converts them, using the OpenADR protocol, into messages that customers receive.

Right now, utilities call or e-mail an industrial customer to signal that there will be a demand-response event. By automating that process, customers can better plan for demand-response events, said Jeremy Eaton, vice president of energy services at Honeywell. It also makes the system available to midsize businesses.

"With the automated technology and our controls, nobody has to be involved. It can all be set up ahead of time," Eaton said. Honeywell plans to use the software as part of its energy efficiency services, in which building owners contract with it to lower energy usage.

Commercial and residential buildings represent about 40 percent of energy use in the United States. Because efficiency measures typically pay for themselves in a few years, many technology companies are investing in building efficiency products, focused on lighting or automation.

Also, as utilities seek to use energy more efficiently or launch smart-grid programs, there's a demand for software tailored for utilities.

In another utility-software-related deal, equipment maker ABB said Wednesday it has paid $1 billion to buy Venytx, which makes software for managing utility assets and energy trading.