BY John MacNeil, Smart Energy GB Head of Policy and Communications, Scotland

SCOTLAND has long enjoyed a reputation as a nation of innovators. From world-changing medical discoveries such as penicillin and beta-blockers to the development of one of the most innovative and resource efficient approaches to water management, not to mention the culinary revolutions of chicken tikka masala and the fridge – we are a country that never stands still.

Though Scotland is undoubtedly at the forefront of cutting edge innovation in many industries, there are some sectors which are dealing with such rapid advancements in technology that a fundamental rethink of how they deliver their services may be the only way they will be able to meet these developments head-on.

The Scottish energy sector is one such industry. With huge developments around smart technology, this is the perfect time for the energy sector to investigate how it can invest in innovation and aid a fundamental rethink of how we are delivering energy and how households use it.

Smart Energy GB, the voice of the smart meter rollout, recently convened a round table of leading thinkers in innovation, including organisations such as Technology Scotland. The discussion centred around the findings of our research into what consumers want from smart energy products and services and how Scottish innovators can harness Scotland’s capability for modernisation, to meet the changing needs and expectations of its customers.

The research found a strong appetite for smarter energy technology amongst people of all ages. Moreover, the national rollout of smart meters to every home was found to be a vital catalyst for innovation: people who already have their smart meter, which allow consumers to see how much energy they are using in pounds and pence and installed at no extra cost by their energy supplier, were even more likely than others to say they would like to use a range of smart technology. This includes devices that turn off automatically on being fully charged, services which offer tailored advice on how to be more energy efficient, tariffs which offer cheaper energy outside of peak times, or the ability to identify which appliances are using the most energy.

The round table recognised that the Scottish energy sector faces unique challenges in relation to innovation, but there was a consensus that if the sector allows itself the space to try new things, without fear of failure, the results could be hugely exciting.

Our research demonstrates that consumers are looking for a real shift in mindset in the energy sector when it comes to smart products and services – a shift that will allow for innovation and experimentation in how we think about and deliver energy, as opposed to simply improving the way we build energy infrastructure. For example, 87 per cent of all adults who participated in the survey found at least one smart technology solution appealing and almost 70 per cent of all adults said they found the idea of devices that require charging turning off automatically after being fully charged appealing. If Scottish companies can capitalise on this appetite, they may well reap financial benefits – it is widely predicted that the potential future value to the economy of the connected home market will run into billions of pounds.

What consumers want from smarter living and the companies offering the new innovations is developing all the time. As automation becomes even more commonplace, it is clear that innovators in all sectors will need to understand and act upon the real desire amongst consumers for smart solutions, particularly those that help us in our everyday lives.