Making the Smart Home Real

The Challenge

Transforming a dormant app into a thriving sustainability solution.

DTE Energy introduced its IoT home energy management app and device system but they weren’t getting the customer traction they had anticipated. They decided to work with our PX Venture Studio to nail the use case and get consumer traction.

The venture we created solved the user engagement challenge. In fact, it was so successful they were able to license it to other energy utilities.

Project Overview



Project Type

Corporate Venture Building



Project Attributes

Digital Product/Service

Key Milestones

  • User research
  • Co-creation
  • Business model development
  • GTM planning
  • Open API development
  • Commercial spin-out
  • Strategic Partnering

Journey Mapping

User Co-Creation

Live Alpha Test

Commercial Spin-Out

The Impact

Creating engagement for homeowners.

In 6 months, we turned a heavily-downloaded but only one-time-use app into a sticky service experience users wanted to engage with over and over. This led to reduced energy usage, and created a secondary revenue stream for our client.

"Your approach to solving the customer use case was just relentless. But, even better, was how we figured out the go-to-market pathway. This exposes us to market and impacts well beyond our footprint."

Sr. Director of Marketing, DTE Energy
How we did it

We got in the field with users to discover what would engage them. Then we built it, got traction, and licensed it to other utilities.

In-home user discovery research

The first job was figuring out what homeowners really wanted from an energy management solution. We found our early adopter by observing them in their home environments. This included all the distractions that are typically present.

Mapping the user journey and pain points

Our early adopter viewed energy usage as part of managing the home. We mapped that journey with all it's highs and lows. To ensure relevance to users, our design principles focused on enabling the broader home management experience, not energy consumption per se.

Co-creation research to define the solution

With clear design principles, we went back to target users to enroll them in co-creating the ideal experience. We saw how the initial app experience only opened the door, but didn't let them walk through it. An engaging solution would need to let them take action, and see the cause-and-effect.

Testing the end-to-end experience before full development

This led to a live test of the full experience, but with a limited set of users. In this way, the venture could validate the experience without building a fully-functioning back-end. We ran the trial for 60 days to see how engagement changed as the novelty wore off.

A commercialized, spin-out solution

To truly meet requirements for the connected home at scale, the energy solution required open APIs, hardware interoperability, and service support that exceeded the scope of a regional power utility. We convened the appropriate third parties and spun the solution out, where it could adapt to evolving homeowner needs while still meeting product team’s goals for proactive energy management and planning.