The brand launches next month with a an app called “Hive Active Heating” which the energy supplier claims is a “next generation” version of its “Remote Heating Control” service. Users are able to control the heating and hot water usage of their homes from their smartphones, SMS or web browsers as well as set schedules and preferences for specific occasions.
Data captured from the use of the app will be used to send users personal notifications on their energy usage, but the company insists it will not be sold to third parties.
It is the first product from Connected Homes – a division of British Gas developing technology to help people monitor and control their energy usage – since it launched last November. Further Hive products will roll out over the next 12 months with British Gas revealing it is looking at how to improve boiler reliability through connected services.
A nationwide advertising campaign, targeting time-strapped billpayers, is being prepped to support the launch and will span TV, outdoor and online to introduce the “Hive by British Gas” positioning. The activity will promote the convenience of the service to both British Gas customers and non-customers at £199, although the energy firm says the cost can be recouped in 16 months through energy bill savings.
The company claims the “intuitive” platform will allow it to “join the dots” between the supply of energy, insight into consumption and the means to control it. The energy provider also hinted the platform would be opened up to developers in the future to create new services in a similar way to Philips crowdsourcing ideas for its Hue mobile app.
Kassir Hussain, director of technology at British Gas Connected Homes, says: “We’re very much in the infancy of a new product category and we generally believe we’re solving a real world problem in helping customers take control of their heating and bring down their energy consumption. If we can bring that message of convenience to customers and show the savings they can make then I think they will adopt it.”
It is hoped the move can support the company’s wider plans to differentiate its energy offering by promoting technology for the home as a value add. The company has been pushing its smart meter service in recent ads and has also been trialling a new app, dubbed Mobile Energy (ME), targeting younger billpayers who live in rented accommodation.
Technology experts predict the prospect of connected homes could be a key battleground for the energy sector moving forward as the industry’s top players shift to a more value-focused business strategy following pricing reforms.
Andrew Brem, managing director of commercial and product development at British Gas Connected Homes, told Marketing Week Hive aims to broaden the appeal of the master brand to an area where it may not have been relevant outright.
Brem says: “British Gas sees its future not as an energy provider but as an energy services company. The price of our energy is really important to customers, but our business strategy now is geared around looking after customers in a way that’s broader than what we currently do.”
Elsewhere, the company is preparing a marketing drive for its ME brand that will target younger customers such as students with a heavy social media and mobile push. Further sub-brand launches could follow in the future, the company adds.