Samsung SmartThings takes a step toward a smarter grid

Samsung has launched a new demand response program for its SmartThings smart home platform. Flex Connect allows your SmartThings connected appliances to communicate with the grid and automatically reduce energy use when there’s a spike in demand, which could help avoid blackouts. While demand response programs have made for some scary headlines, many experts believe connecting our smart homes to the grid is critical for managing the strain on our energy network.

Flex Connect is available in New York and California and works with SmartThings Energy — an energy management solution. It taps into SmartThings’ AI Energy Mode to automate how smart appliances and connected devices like lights and thermostats respond to demand response events.

AI Energy Mode, which Samsung says can save up to 70 percent of energy consumption when using Samsung products, is a smart program that learns your household’s routines and automatically adjusts appliances and devices’ energy use to save energy based on targets you set in the app.

Alongside appliances, SmartThings Energy can automate devices connected to smart plugs, such as this Eve Energy plug.
Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

According to Samsung, when a demand response signal is received from your utility company, Flex Connect can automatically turn on the AI Energy Mode to save extra energy use in supported appliances, automatically power off devices — including third-party lights and plugs — and automatically adjust supported thermostats to lower their energy use.

If you don’t have any supported appliances, you can still use the SmartThings Energy feature to receive alerts when an event is triggered. This way, you can know to adjust your thermostat or not run your dryer.

The Flex Connect program is optional, and you can choose which devices you want to enroll, as well as change them at any time. Any appliance or device that works with SmartThings Energy can be connected to Flex Connect. While the compatible devices list is dominated by Samsung appliances, several third-party plugs, lights, and thermostats are supported. Some notable brands include Wemo, TP-Link, Aeotec, Ecobee, Sengled, and Resideo (Honeywell Home). There’s also support for Tesla products, including the Powerwall and Loop EV chargers.

Samsung hasn’t provided specific details on how utilities will work with the program, if there are plans to expand to more states, or when Flex Connect will go live. We’ll update this post with more information when we receive it.

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