I&M Going Interactive With Energy Efficiency

Posted: Updated:
The AEP subsidiary is headquartered in downtown Fort Wayne. The AEP subsidiary is headquartered in downtown Fort Wayne.

A growing number of people are becoming accustomed to asking Alexa or Google when they want to hear music, make a call, watch videos and more. Now, an Indiana utility wants to use smart speaker technology to connect to its customers and ultimately try to help them improve energy efficiency.

Fort Wayne-based Indiana Michigan Power (I&M), which is an operating company of American Electric Power, says its customers can get information on how they use energy by using voice commands through Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant.

I&M Principal Communications Consultant Tracy Warner says the move is key for the utility to keep up with consumer behavior.

"I&M strives to communicate with customers using the ways that they want to communicate, and technology offers a lot more ways," Warner says. "Facebook is increasingly a way that customers communicate with us, and now the smart speakers are catching on and more people are using them for other reasons, so we wanted to give them the option to use it with I&M as well."

Initially, customers will be able to ask for information about I&M, including: Does I&M have renewables? Does I&M have energy rebates? Does I&M have any job openings? However, Warner also believes the utility is among the first to also offer personalized, interactive features on smart speakers. He says users can ask about their bills, see if their energy use is normal and get updates on outages.

As time goes on, Warner expects Indiana Michigan Power to continue to add functions and features to its smart speaker capabilities. For example, he says customers could not only ask how much their bill is, but could potentially pay it with a voice command. Or, in addition to asking how to save energy at home, they could use their virtual assistant to actually adjust their thermostat.

"You might ask I&M, 'Are there ways to save energy?' and I&M could offer those ways and adjust your thermostat through one of the voice channels," Warner tells Inside INdiana Business. They're not here now…but there seems to be almost an unlimited amount of activities and functions that could be possible with this new channel."

On top of trying to be more consumer-friendly, I&M says the offering is a net positive environmentally, as well. "We want to give them more information," says Warner, "give them information about how they are using energy, maybe notify them if their energy use is up."

The utility says the move plays into its ongoing effort to reduce emissions, adding more than half of its generation is emission-free. It serves nearly 594,000 customers.

Warner says the trend is only going to continue to grow, as customers look for new ways to manage their energy use. He says capabilities like virtual assistant interactions will allow them to do that more easily.

Warner details some of the questions users will be able to ask their virtual assistants.
Warner says the utility plans to add more personalized functions in the future.
  • Perspectives

    • Why HR Should Embrace AI

      With the increased introduction of artificial intelligence, many companies worry about its long-term effects. Although AI has been adopted by many industries, the common fear remains: Will AI eventually take over our jobs? Contrary to this belief, AI can be extremely beneficial in helping humans improve productivity at work,make their day-to-day tasks easier and allow more time for creative tasks only humans can perform. One department that can especially benefit from jumping on the...



Company Name:
Confirm Email:
INside Edge
Morning Briefing
BigWigs & New Gigs
Life Sciences Indiana
Indiana Connections


  • Most Popular Stories

    • Fishers Among Finalists For National Prize

      The city of Fishers is one of 12 finalists for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Culture of Health Prize. The award honors "communities that are bringing partners together around a shared commitment to health, opportunity, and equity."

    • (photo courtesy of Howe Military Academy)

      Howe Military Academy to Close

      Howe Military Academy in LaGrange County has announced plans to close its doors after 135 years. In a letter posted on the academy's website, President Thomas Tate cited rising costs and declining in enrollment as reasons why the school will not reopen for the 2019-2020 academic year.

    • Greenwood CEO Named Small Business Person of the Year

      The chief executive officer of a Greenwood-based company has been named the 2019 Small Business Person of the Year for Indiana. U.S. Small Business Administrator Linda McMahon announced Monday this year's winners from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Guam. 

    • (photo courtesy of Subaru of Indiana Automotive)

      SIA Breaks Ground on Training Center

      Officials from Subaru of Indiana Automotive in Lafayette have broken ground on a new technical training center. The company says the 20,000-square-foot facility will double the size of its current training center. SIA did not say how much it is investing in the new facility. The technical training center will feature a simulated factor floor, up to six training robots, multiple assembly line simulators, classrooms, and a larger computer lab, among other amenities. 

    • Hanna believes crews could begin "turning dirt" in 2020.

      Hanna: South Shore Project Hits 'Major, Major Milestone'

      The president of the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority says the South Shore Line West Lake Corridor project will create a crucial "Hoosier gateway in Chicago." The more than $700 million project has received a positive project rating from the Federal Transit Administration, putting it a step closer to up to $440 million in federal funding. Bill Hanna says the rail extension will help Hoosier workers connect to jobs in Chicago that often pay more...