March 2019: Open Road Map Update — Bulb Community

March 2019: Open Road Map Update

Last month, we announced that we’ll be updating our Open Road Map once a month.

If you missed February’s update, have a quick read to find out what the Open Road Map is and how we use it.

If you think you’ve come up with a great idea for Bulb or just feel we should be doing things differently, you can post below or start your own discussion, and we’ll pop it on the Open Road Map.

Here’s what we’ve been up to since the last update.

Things we’ve done:

Move out tracker
There’s a lot to think about when moving home. We know that sorting out your energy supplier is just one of many things to do on your list.

So, to make things easier for you, we built a ‘move out tracker’. This is a timeline that lives in your Bulb account to guide you through closing the account at your current address and taking Bulb with you to your new home.

The tracker is a step by step guide specific to your move. It keeps you informed of progress, so you don’t need to get in touch to find out when you will receive your final bill, when we’ll refund any remaining credit and when you need to submit your meter readings.

Referrals Dashboard
Bulb members love referring. And we love that you love to share Bulb.

We want to make referring your friends as easy as possible. So we’ve given the referrals page of your Bulb account a makeover.

Here’s what's changed:
  • Our old referrals page had three sharing icons. One each for Facebook, Twitter and email. It wasn’t obvious what these buttons did, so we simplified the design to just one ‘share’ icon to make sharing Bulb that little bit easier.
  • Previously, we displayed the number of times you shared your referral link by email with an ‘invites sent’ tracker. But that was confusing because only a small number of links are shared by email. So we decided to remove it.
You also noticed a couple of bugs in the new referrals page when it was first released last week. These have since been fixed - thanks for pointing them out.

Bulb Export Tariff
In December 2018, the government announced it would be closing the feed-in-tariff scheme.

However, from April 2018 onwards, Bulb will offer an export payment. If you generate green energy in your home, we’ll pay for any energy you export to the grid.

We’re first launching an ‘alpha’ for 50 members to help us test it.

You can take part if you:
  • Pay for your energy by direct debit
  • Have a smart meter that we can read
  • Export your energy to the grid

You can find out more about how we plan to buy the energy you export on our blog.

Things we’re currently working on:

Improved address matching
Every electricity and gas meter is registered in a national database. For Bulb to supply your home, we need to know which meter is yours. When you join Bulb, we ask you to select your address, and we’ll automatically match it with the correct meter behind the scenes.

On the odd occasion, we’re unable to find your address. That’s because your property hasn’t been registered on the database yet, or it has been registered, but incorrectly. If that’s the case we’ll ask you to send us a picture of your meter. We can find which address is yours by looking at your meter serial number and manually match it ourselves.

But taking a photo is extra hassle which you don’t want – and neither do we. So our engineers have been working on making our address matching more accurate by linking our sign up page to a new database.

We’ve found a significant increase in the number of accurate address searches, helping us to make switching to Bulb seamless for more members. We’ll be rolling this out permanently in the next few weeks.

Refund Testing
We like our members to be in control of their payments. That’s why you’re able to change your monthly payment amount, the date you make a payment, the account you pay from and top up your balance in your Bulb account. You can do this on the desktop version or our in the updated version of the Bulb app.

Currently, to refund credit on your account, you need to drop us an email or give us a ring and we’ll sort it out.

We’re now testing automatic refund requests for members who have at least one month’s credit and up to date meter readings. Refunding is a little more complex than making a payment because you may request more money than you’ve paid into your account. For example, you might have:
  • Built up a credit from referring your friends and family
  • Recently updated your payment method
We’re currently running a few tests on the ‘refund button’ on the desktop version of the Bulb account for some members. We need to be sure that payments are refunded correctly to avoid risk or possible fraud. We’ll keep you updated on whether this is something we go ahead and launch.

Your ideas:

You’ve shared a bumper crop of ideas throughout February and March. We can’t talk about everything but here’s some of your ideas and what we think.

Community fund to help vulnerable members pay their energy bills
@Phedro said we should find a way to help our more vulnerable members to pay their energy bills. You suggested we should give members the option to round up their energy statement to the nearest pound. All the extra pennies would be gathered into a fund and distributed to members that need it the most.

In the past we’ve supported Trees for Cities with £2 per member that joins Bulb. We’re currently reviewing how we spend this charitable money. As part of this discussion, we’ll think about how members can make an extra charitable donation. Thanks for the idea.

Calculator to compare costs between the smart plan and the normal plan
We’ve done lots of research and testing around the smart tariff. Understanding how much you could save by switching from our standard variable tariff onto a three rate smart tariff is important when it comes to your energy bills.

We’ll shortly be releasing a new Electric Vehicle (EV) page on our website. This page will have a tool to help you compare the cost of charging your EV between the two tariffs.

If our members find this useful, and it sounds like @tkerby and others would, then we’ll think about how we could extend it to non-EV owners too

Ability to download half hourly smart meter readings, daily kWh import, and export figures in csv
You’ve been giving us some great feedback about how we should display your smart meter data in our new usage graphs.

You can read more about what changes we’re making to the usage graph on our latest community post.

@Nicolo at Bulb has been listening to your feedback and has added your suggested features into the designs. For example, he’s looked at displaying not just the cost of your daily/weekly/monthly energy usage but the number of kWh too.

And we’ve now added the downloadable import and export figures to the designs. It’ll take a lot of back end work to make this possible so we’ll keep you updated on our progress. Thanks for sharing your support on this @ThatGuy

Community fund to help subsidise domestic solar panel installations
@FromTheValleys suggested a fund to subsidise solar panels. While we love this idea, it’s not something we’re able to do right now.

We’ve made a lot of progress on our Feed-in Tariff scheme and we’re committed to helping members to get a fair price for their exports. We’re focusing on releasing Bulb’s export tariff. So for now, we won’t have time to focus on subsidising solar panel installations.

But from April this year we will be ECO compliant. This means Bulb will be responsible for installing energy efficiency measures in a small number of member’s homes each year. There’s more on this to come.

APIs so members can develop tools themselves
An API for members that enables them to delve deeper into their data and even build their own applications based on it, is one of the longest standing suggestions on the Open Road Map. We’ve kept it hanging around on the ideas board for a while because it wasn’t a priority. (Not every member has the technical know-how to take advantage of an API, or the desire to dig into their data). We wanted to build the basic tools for members before exploring an API for you to build tools too.

But we think it’s a neat idea. So we first need to scope out the level of interest and how to make it possible, if at all.

The idea was taken to an internal roadmap meeting. So it’s on our minds and we’ll update you with what progress we make.

Comments

  • We’ve kept it hanging around on the ideas board for a while because it wasn’t a priority. (Not every member has the technical know-how to take advantage of an API, or the desire to dig into their data). We wanted to build the basic tools for members before exploring an API for you to build tools too.

    If you build the API first, then someone else will develop all the visualisation tools on your behalf, for free.
  • Agree with Hooloovoo, there might even already be an API standardised, with tools already and waiting to take advantage!
  • Not to mention surely the API has to be developed first anyway, in order for the Bulb visualisation code to access and display customer data. The only extra step is making that API available securely outside Bulb.
  • Totally agree. Lots of us would use the API to develop cool tools for all your members.

    I would like to see something like Oauth implemented for security though. Initially an API that allows me to get my own data would be great but to make visualisations available more widely, we need a way to authenticate someone against their bulb account and give permission to use the tool.
  • edited March 18
    https://community.bulb.co.uk/discussion/comment/29794/#Comment_29794

    David is no longer working at Bulb :'( We won't be releasing an API any time soon.

    @tkerby Have to say I'm getting a little worried about Bulb. The company seems massively overwhelmed with the level of software development required, with a dev team that is too small and getting smaller.
  • As an API developer, it seems more common these days to write an API once and use it on the company website to display data (at least in all the places I've worked), if customers want to use it then all they need is a valid access token.
  • Hooloovoo said:

    @tkerby Have to say I'm getting a little worried about Bulb. The company seems massively overwhelmed with the level of software development required, with a dev team that is too small and getting smaller.

    I'm not sure that the team is necessarily getting smaller but having issues with retention in technical roles is probably just as bad.

    I'd agree that it seems like they have underestimated their IT and development requirements though.

    https://bulb.co.uk/careers/ is always interesting.
  • mowcius said:

    https://bulb.co.uk/careers/ is always interesting.

    I was looking at that a month or so ago. There were a couple of positions I'd be interested in, if I were in the market, but in any case I'm not prepared to move to that London.
  • Hooloovoo said:

    I was looking at that a month or so ago. There were a couple of positions I'd be interested in, if I were in the market, but in any case I'm not prepared to move to that London.

    I've often also thought I should stop complaining and apply for one of their jobs to try and make things better (and actually did back in the day) but I similarly have no plans to move to London.
  • We're always looking for new members of the team. That's because we're always growing and are developing new products for our members.

    We'd love for any of you to join our team!
  • @Eleanor at Bulb, but are you open to remote-only employees?
  • I'd be quite interested in the answer to @mowcius question as well. 'Work from home remote employees' are a good green solution (no expensive/fume producing transport needed, no expensive office space needed to light and heat etc) and is good for those of us who, whilst would like to be able to work in an office 9-5, are unable to do so due to home/family commitments.
  • edited March 22
    We don't offer employees roles that are remote-only @mowcius.

    @RichyB There is flexibility for those with family commitments but we do a lot of collaborative work which we prefer to have people in the office for. I'll let the team know that this is something you think we should explore. Out of interest, which jobs were you looking at?

    London's not that bad when you get used to it!

    [UPDTAED] Our people team have said that whilst we're still growing, we need all hands on deck which makes having some of team Bulb working remotely hard. We've also got lean teams, which doesn't perhaps allow that flexibility but as we settle into our product and services, that might be something we're able to consider.
  • [UPDTAED] Our people team have said that whilst we're still growing, we need all hands on deck which makes having some of team Bulb working remotely hard. We've also got lean teams, which doesn't perhaps allow that flexibility but as we settle into our product and services, that might be something we're able to consider.

    I just suspect that some people at Bulb may just have an irrational fear of remote working/remote workers.
    If you're not going to consider employing remote workers right now, consider allowing your current employees to work more flexibly.
    For those doing customer support and phone work, there's very little need for them to be travelling through the smog and congestion of central London to sit in an office 5 days a week.
    I used to support typically over a hundred remote workers on any one day for IT, and a lot of days I was also working remotely myself. There were very few technical issues experienced by our internal users, and external customers' experiences were identical.

    As Bulb are still allowing employees to use whatever technology they like, and it's only been around a year since you actually got your own IT team, technically maybe you're not set up to enable remote working though?
    London's not that bad when you get used to it!
    I could also get used to a house with no central heating and just wear 6 jumpers, but there are better alternatives!
  • @mowcius we do have some remote working, just not full time remote working. A lot of the team work four days in the office and one day at home. Personally, I prefer to cycle through the smog and work in the office.

    We have the technology in place for our team of Energy Specialists to work from home but as a people based business we find it much more effective for the team to be working together.

    As ever, we're a fast growing business and things change all the time. It's possible that opportunities for more remote working to crop up in the future.
  • London's not that bad when you get used to it!

    I like London as a tourist destination. I just wouldn't want to live there, and in any case couldn't afford to live there.

    To reverse spin your statement - there's absolutely no need at all for Bulb to be based in London. Essentially, like many businesses these days, you're a tech company no matter what field in which you're actually operating. Why pay for London premises when it offers no advantage? What do you get out of being based in London that you wouldn't be able to do in any other city?

    For what it's worth, I'd be looking at either the data science (I have a Physics PhD) or devops engineer roles. However, I don't have the machine learning skills you want for the former, and while I tick a lot of boxes for the latter I don't have Circle CI or Kubernetes experience. So I doubt I'd get very far even if I did apply.
  • Hooloovoo said:

    and in any case couldn't afford to live there.

    I suspect that a lot of people who work/might work at Bulb also don't really live in London either.
    The distance out that people still consider London to be London is insane; I'd go through contryside and end up in a different city if I went that far from here. I know it technically still is, but it's still ridiculous.

  • mowcius said:

    I suspect that a lot of people who work/might work at Bulb also don't really live in London either.
    The distance out that people still consider London to be London is insane; I'd go through contryside and end up in a different city if I went that far from here. I know it technically still is, but it's still ridiculous.

    Agreed. I should have also included that I can't be doing with living miles away and having a huge commute every day.
  • In 2015, Hayden and Amit (Bulb's co-founders) gave up their jobs in London to start Bulb. As they both lived here already, it was the natural place to start. They started working at a co-working space in East London - Second Home - which was our home until last month.

    When we started looking for an office to call our own, we knew we wanted to keep the whole team together so we could continue to work collaboratively. We also looked for an office nearby to where we were as that felt right by our team. Our current office is a 10 minute walk from Second Home.

    Despite our growth, Bulb is still a fairly young company and as I've said, things change all the time. For now we'll be staying in London but that may change in the future. We've not started thinking about this yet but anything is possible!
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