James Monighan has a background as Managing Director (Europe) at Samsung SmartThings, Head of Products – Connected Home at British Gas/Hive and Head of Marketing and Products – IoT at Telefonica.
Now working as an advisor and consultant, James is helping Eliq to develop its strategy and market proposition for the energy industry.
Q&A with James Monighan
Q: You were Head of Products – Connected Homes at British Gas/Hive during the transformative years of the company that has paved the way for the utility industry into the connected home space. Tell us about the work you did at British Gas.
A: I was a member of the leadership team of Connected Homes which is a London based lean start up tasked will developing new and innovative products to help the parent company. We developed a range of smart home products under the Hive brand, several energy insight products using data from smart meters and also a connected boiler product that would monitor and control the performance of your gas boiler. It was a really exciting time that resulted in Hive being a leader in smart thermostats in the UK and British Gas delivering an energy insight product to a significant proportion of its target base.
Q: The Hive concept is largely considered the success story around energy engagement and utility smart home. What do you think was the single most important factor behind the success?
A: The people! We recruited and developed a really talented team that enabled us to build a unique culture based around core agile principle.
Q: How do you think utilities’ offers and customer relationships will develop in the next few years and how will it be affected by the adoption of smart metering?
A: I believe that energy companies need to develop a conversation with the customer, helping them to understand and manage their energy consumption. As we move to a low carbon economy, demand response and battery storage based technologies, this will become even more important. It’s good business, good for the environment and great for customers.
Q: After Samsung acquired Silicon Valley smart home startup SmartThings for $200 million, you left British Gas to join SmartThings as Managing Director for Europe. What was it like to suddenly work for a startup company in a smaller team?
A: It was very similar to the initial stages of Connected Homes to be honest. The same culture and still central London based. The only real differences were that my boss was based in Palo Alto and Samsung provided the capability to scale worldwide at low cost. It’s a great story of digital innovation of a successful consumer electronics brand.
Q: Do you think utilities and telcos are well positioned to take a sizeable portion of the smart home market to come?
A: I believe that they have a right to play but need to change their approach to be successful. They need to partner with the right companies who can help them deliver digital innovation at speed and gain the customers trust. They have to earn customers’ trust by helping to show them how they can benefit from a smart home, deliver some great services and offer it all at a competitive price point.
Q: Last year, we saw Telefonica/O2 buy into AT&T’s Digital Life smart home solution. Given your background within IoT at Telefonica as well as with SmartThings – we are curious to hear your comments.
A: I believe it’s great to see O2 trying to establish a presence in the customer’s home. They have partnered with an established platform provider, offered a range of managed products and are trying some different business models to understand what works. This has included home installation, in store roll out to assist with customer education, and a range of different solution packages at different price points. I believe it would be great to see other companies follow this example and innovate the service and business model to help drive customer awareness and also a more competitive price point.
Q: Why did you decide to join Eliq as an advisor?
A: I am excited by the chance to help the Board of Eliq and the rapid growth of the company. They have a really talented team, access to the latest in technology and are delivering a fantastic proposition that solves a real customer problem. Their early success has already been recognised through winning the Energy monitoring solution of the year award, and I look forward to their continued success.