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Digital start-up within British Gas helps to attract new customers

Hive heating app bought by 75,000 people in first seven months

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Connected Homes, a new business unit of British Gas, is helping to retain and attract new consumers to the energy firm, according to director Kassir Hussain.

The unit was launched in September 2012 based on 'lean start-up' principles. The venture serves as an innovative start-up within British Gas, allowing the company to take advantage of new technology.

It has launched two products so far: Hive Active Heating, which allows you to control your home heating from your smartphone, laptop or tablet and Smart Energy Report, which allows smart meter customers to monitor their energy usage.

Connected Homes director Hussain told the Ignite summit in London that, according to data collected, people who have bought the Hive app have a higher propensity to buy other British Gas products, and that it is helping to attract new customers to the parent business.

The Hive app has been bought by 75,000 people since it was launched in a September 2013, and Hussain claimed that it helps to save consumers £150 a year on their energy bills.

Connected Homes products are also helping to improve British Gas' image, he added.

"The energy sector is not a loved industry, but we are helping to improve perception. We're delivering faster at significantly lower cost. There are encouraging signs of innovation. It's early days yet but we're definitely trending in the right direction," Hussain said.

He told ComputerworldUK that the Connected Homes division was operating like a nimble start-up.

"In January 2013 we set up as Connected Homes, the name of the internal business unit.

"By October that year we had set up a new office in London near Oxford Street, hired a new team, created a new sub-brand, developed creatives, mobile and web apps and our own web shop and re-hosted on our platform onto a new data centre. We've been operating at pretty breakneck speed," he said.

Hussain explained that the venture helped British Gas experiment, test and validate hypotheses and build products very quickly. He said: "Most large companies do not have a culture of experimentation or collecting data to base new ventures on.

"Corporates often reject the new venture and it's death by a thousand cuts in most organisations. You start off with a Rolls-Royce and you're lucky to end up with a Skoda."

Regarding the year ahead, Hussain said: "We've still got to educate consumers on the benefits of Hive Active Heating and we need to continue innovating on that. We are starting trials with a connected boiler.

"We're also looking at what else in the home needs to be connected. The living room is phenomenally connected now with set-top boxes, games consoles, sound systems. So we need to look beyond the living room at things like lighting, air quality monitors, presence sensors and so on."


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