Intelligent Energy

Smart grid data should be free

Smart grid data should be free

Posting in Cities

Utilities are accumulating an abundance of data from smart grids, but most are failing to process it. A sensible solution is to make data publicly available so that entrepreneurs can put it to good use.

It's time for utilities to unshackle innovation by making aggregate smart grid data publicly available.

Utilities are accumulating an abundance of data from smart grids, but most are failing to process it. A sensible solution is to make data publicly available so that entrepreneurs can put it to good use.

Oracle conducted a survey on how well U.S. utilities are leveraging smart grid data and published its results this week. This is a marketing effort in support of its business intelligence solutions, but the findings were nevertheless interesting.

Energy executives were nearly unanimous in saying that smart grid deployments are helping to improve overall quality of service by monitoring outages and voltage data. Utilities are, however, failing to gain operational intelligence for their business managers.

45 percent of utilities are currently not leveraging data analytics to deliver insight to business managers as fast as it's required, and 50 percent miss opportunities to deliver useful information to their customers, Oracle says.

Oracle sells business intelligence and data management solutions for utilities. It is also a partner of Hadoop "big data" maven Cloudera. This type of survey is great for sales calls. I know - I sold enterprise software for a few years. Oracle can make the operational intelligence problem go away for a price.

Even still, smart grids are widely deployed, and useful data isn't being exploited. Some utilities are very engaged in smart meter initiatives, and have partnered with start-ups that have found clever ways to extract value from it all.

Smart grid start-ups have conceived of rewards programs to reduce household energy consumption; others are leveraging social media or even gaming. I'd like to see more of that, and utilities should too, because it's cheaper to conserve energy than it is to build power plants.

New York City data spearheaded free data services, and a groundswell of innovative applications followed. Software makers were also able to add value to the IRS's information systems that is well beyond what the government could have accomplished alone.

It's time for utilities to embrace openness. A new marketplace of ideas would help utilities conserve energy, lower household bills, and mostly importantly, combat climate change.

(Image credit: Wikipedia Commons)

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David Worthington

Contributing Editor

David Worthington has written for BetaNews, eWeek, PC World, Technologizer and ZDNet. Formerly, he was a senior editor at SD Times. He holds a business degree from Temple University. He is based in New York. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure