VOLTTRON: At the Heart of a Better Quality of Life

Today and yesterday, Mark Lesswing and I were lucky enough to attend a software conference specifically focused on a product that aims to save homeowners money and make homes energy effective. This software is called VOLTTRON and in it’s short life (about 4 years total), it’s already being used by major device manufacturers and utilities. VOLTTRON was created by the Pacific Northwest National Lab with the Department of Energy. It’s part of their Future Grid initiative. Where I see potential, though, is in the Internet of Things (smart home, wearables and beacons) and the home.

The Rosetta Stone for a Home’s Quality of Life

You might have heard me wax poetic about a device called BEMOSS (Building Energy Management Open Source Software) here. It’s an amazing software application that essentially becomes a Rosetta Stone for your smart home devices. Different smart home devices from different manufacturers communicating in one common location that you can control and monitor. Think about the implications for monitoring a home’s air quality, light quality, humidity, temperature and thermostat. Also, you’d be able to see the historical performance for these devices. At the core of BEMOSS is the VOLTTRON framework.

What would this mean for a homeowner? You could help them think about what air quality means on a per room basis in the context of their entire home or their neighborhood. This is why products like BEMOSS excite me. They could allow you to help homeowners understand their home. The home is an organism and if you can put a ‘central nervous system’ in it, then you’ve got something that helps a homeowner make decisions about a home’s needs.

The VOLTTRON Transactional Framework

In the video above, VOLTTRON works to improve the efficiency of load on the energy grid. So, in the not too distant future, let’s say you have an electric car and you plug it in at night to charge it. You also have other energy needs in your home during that time: refrigerator, cooling, etc. VOLTTRON would prioritize when your car would charge based on several optional factors demonstrated in the video. Essentially, think of each energy need having an agent that negotiates with other energy need agents to determine whom gets access when. Other factors considered in the negotiation is grid pricing and load. So, you can set your car to charge only when the energy price, which fluctuates, goes down.

One of my favorite features of VOLTTRON is how serious the engineers are about security. I won’t cover it right now, but in the future, we’ll put more out about it. If you’re interested, here’s a paper on their approach.

Where does CRT come in & what does it mean for me?

I’m glad you asked. At CRT, we’re starting a lab where we’re going to work on projects like BEMOSS and projects like VOLTTRON. Our goal is to get ahead of smart home mass adoption and help shape what devices can help you develop a new type of relationship with homeowners, where you can advise a homeowner on how to improve quality of life in their homes. This means for you a new way to generate leads and develop services that help homeowners see the your potential as a trusted advisor beyond the transaction.

This new direction allows us to connect with projects like VOLTTRON and gives us a chance to actively contribute and represent our members in a way that improves their business in the not too distant future.

We’ll continue to update you on our progress and the progress of the VOLTTRON team.

Chad Curry

Managing Director for the Center for REALTOR® Technology. Working to improve the value proposition to our members through our web properties and mobile space.

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