PORTLAND, Ore., Sept. 4, 2001 – Utilities are breaking out of their traditional roles and looking for new ways to serve customers.
At the same time, telephones are getting dramatically smarter – and are connecting neighborhoods and communities like never before. Those trends combine in a new program developed by Oregon’s largest electric company, Portland General Electric (PGE).
PGE views its new initiative, MyLocalAccessà¢â€ž-, as a way to build business in a new environment where utilities are looking for ways to strengthen their bottom line and customers need more information on how to manage their energy usage and control costs.
PGE’s MyLocalAccess program connects communities and neighborhoods by providing users with a variety of services and information via smart phones. The phones offer e-mail accounts; community and apartment information; utility connections; local news and weather; electronic bill payment; on-line access to neighborhood merchants, and will add energy management data in the near future. The smart phone transaction takes place via a screen display and keyboard, added to a telephone that is no larger than a standard office model. A computer chip smart card with a personal identification number is issued to each user, ensuring secure access and enabling e-commerce functions. For customers who prefer to use their PCs, MyLocalAccess is also available at www.mylocalaccess.net.
“PGE is always looking for better ways to connect with its customers and offer them timely information and gateways to new services. MyLocalAccess’ accessibility and low cost make it an very valuable tool,” said Dave Carboneau, PGE’s vice president of marketing and business development. Noting current concerns over energy price and supply, Carboneau pointed out that the smart phones will soon allow customers to monitor their electricity use, helping them control costs.
Irvine, Calif.-based HomeAccess MicroWeb, Inc., (NASDAQ-PINK:GLDI), supplies PGE with software and operating systems to power MyLocalAccess. “PGE is a forward-thinking utility company that shares our vision of offering all consumers, not just those who have a PC, the ability to connect to important local services and information, from their kitchen countertop or their home office,” said Jerry Conrad, HomeAccessà¢â€ž- chairman and chief executive officer.
Hagenuk CPS, Inc., of Aliso Viejo, Calif., and its Netherlands affiliate, CPS Europe, are supplying the smart phones. “MyLocalAccess service represents the future of connecting communities together and PGE is at the forefront of the emerging market for providing secure smart card services. Hagenuk screen phone and secure card reading products are well poised to meet this need,” said Richard Greenwood, Hagenuk’s president.
Additional features will be tested this fall, including automated electricity meter reading, provided by Scotts Valley, Calif.-based Metering Technology Corp. (MTC). PGE will organize the meter data in graphic form, letting users view home electricity consumption on the screen phone and manage their energy use for maximum efficiency and lowest cost. “We’re excited to be working with such a progressive utility,” said Peter Larsson, president and CEO of MTC. “Portland General Electric’s program for smart communicating meters and value added services leads the industry.”
MyLocalAccess has entered its pilot phase in Oregon’s Washington County, a Portland suburb, where PGE installed phones in almost 800 apartments.
Residents are beginning to pay their monthly PGE bills online via checking account debits and credit cards. “We see great potential for MyLocalAccess in apartment communities,” said Wally Scales, PGE’s senior director of market development. “We can enable a wide array of tenant communication and financial functions.” PGE is testing two-way communications where apartment managers send ‘e-notices’ to an individual, a group, or the entire community on the phone’s screen, and tenants respond online. For example, an individual would be alerted to a package delivered to the manager’s office, or a group of buildings could be notified of upcoming maintenance work. PGE is in preliminary tests of online rent payment, and PGE also plans to offer the system for online lease applications where prospective tenants would obtain instant credit approval and utility connections.”
The pilot’s next phase will add screen phones to 600 homes in single-family neighborhoods.
For retailers, MyLocalAccess offers a gateway to an untapped market – customers who do not regularly surf the web for products and services. The smart phones are conveniently located in high traffic areas of the home (often on the kitchen counter), delivering news and retail messages 24-hours a day. “Market research indicates 80 percent of all purchases are made within 10 miles of people’s homes, reinforcing the need for community-centered e-commerce solutions,” Scales said. “While the Internet brings you the world, MyLocalAccess brings you the neighborhood.”
To see the smart phones and meters, visit the HomeAccess/Hagenuk and MTC booths at the AMRA (Automated Meter Reading Association) International Symposium, Sept. 9-12 in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.
About Portland General Electric
A wholly owned subsidiary of Enron Corp., Portland General Electric (PGE) is Oregon’s largest electric utility servicing more than 732,000 customers. An energy leader for more than a century, PGE reaches beyond the bounds of a typical utility, crafting flexible resource strategies and developing innovative services, such as MyLocalAccessà¢â€ž-, to meet the needs of the local community. Learn more at www.PortlandGeneral.com.
Additional information may be a accessed at:
HomeAccess MicroWeb, Inc. – www.homeaccess.net/home.htm (NASDAQ-PINK: GLDI)
Metering Technology Corp. – www.metertech.com
Hagenuk CPS, Inc. – www.hagenuk.com