Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Big Data and Energy Seminar: How Big Data Can Drive Big-Time Energy Efficiency

On Thursday, May 2nd, we brought together teams from energy management companies Enernoc  and EnergyPoints  where the discussion focused on how data is utilized to improve energy efficiency.

Stephen Dillon, Data Architect and Technology Strategy, Schneider Electric kicked off the program with the standard definition of Big Data and the 3 Vs (volume, velocity, variety). He added a fourth, which the panel agreed to be the most important – Value. Data is just data, it is the information you extract from it that provides value to the end user.  Stephen continued to set the tone for the discussion with a list of trends and expectations:

· Real time analytics are critical

· Pushing computation towards the data, not the other way around

· Innovation can be accomplished by software designers

· Demand response time has and will continue to shrink

Mike Rennick, Director of Applications and Seth Sheldon, Senior Scientist of EnergyPoints followed with their introduction. Energy Points optimizes efficiency for their customers by collecting a variety of geospatial data (coming from water, energy, and other sources), transforming it into common data points, to which they can then analyze. Their biggest challenge at present time is understanding the variety of incoming data. A future challenge will be resulting in the massive increase of volume – ultimately increasing the variety - the sector is no doubt facing. 

Don Jenkins, Senior Director of Energy Markets and Data Quality and Prakriteswar (Santi) Santikary, Director of Software Engineering from EnerNOC. Santi opened with his view: big data initiatives = big opportunities – big challenges.  He went on to say how it is imperative to concentrate on the WHAT and WHY before reaching the HOW.

The panel went on to address a variety of topics including the big data hype, business value, and the role of the cloud.

Panelists agreed that the hype exists due to what Santi called the “innovators dilemma”. Organizations can’t get comfortable or they will be left behind. Innovation needs to happen constantly and should follow the hype cycle. Seth built upon that remarking how the hype also exists due to the real time nature and the promise to take advantage of information in a meaningful way quickly.

Deriving business value stems from asking the right questions in the beginning.  Understanding “what’s in it for the end user?” There is so much data coming in that without knowing the right questions, it is impossible to pull the needle from the haystack and deliver the value. A continued effort to deliver this value comes with the need for data visualization tools, enabling a simplified form of communicating information to the stakeholders that the bare eye can understand.

Cloud computing for the energy sector is overall a positive. Due to the nature of the data there aren’t as many privacy and security concerns as other vertical sectors and therefore it is not a hurdle to overcome. In fact it allows for manipulation to be done in a way that it can be changed if problems occur of solutions are not garnered. There are some challenges with interoperability, however the panel did not see those challenges as permanent and that technology and standards would continue to evolve.

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