Energy Sector Needs for Big Data Provide ISVs with Opportunities for Product Development

Michael R. Nelson, Analyst, Technology and Internet Policy, Bloomberg Government, moderated a panel discussion, “Rethinking Risks and Opportunities in Big Data: Energy and Utilities”, last Thursday, March 14, 2013, during the Bloomberg Big Data Conference, held in Washington, DC in the United States.

Amit Narayan, CEO of Autogrid, Inc. noted that “Big Data is all about breaking down silos . . . ” Clearly, if he is correct, then ISVs have an opportunity to develop lots of tools for big data for the energy sector. Power generation and consumption businesses present a unique combination of Information Technology (IT) and Industrial Control System (ICS) computing. The combination of these two highly dissimilar computing architectures amounts to a barrier to entry ISVs can depend upon to retard the rate of commoditization for this market.

Mr. Narayan described an ambitious objective, to transform utility meters from their present role as obstacles to business intelligence gathering, into powerful bridges between what he referred to as “the physics of the grid” and the “economics of the grid.” Power producers own “the physics of the grid” including Distribution Architecture (DA) and the Smart Grid, while their counterparts on the business side work with customers and the “economics of the grid”.

Few if any businesses in this category have connected DA, the Smart Grid and Smart Meters to provide an end to end big data collection method free of silos. Without enterprise wide access to the data, these businesses can’t implement the efficiencies promised by the advanced technology built into each of the components of the system. The result is an experience like Hurricane Sandy, unpleasant for energy producers and consumers, alike.

Some of the tools required to breakdown the big data silos in the energy business must deliver a better method of managing data privacy to users. The panel spent time discussing the question of how data collected from smart meters should be handled. The consensus of the participants (including Mr. Narayan, Mr. Paul Rogers, Chief Development Officer, GE Global Software Headquarters, Mr. Robert W. Bechtel, CTO and Senior Policy Advisor, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, U. S. Department of Energy, and Michael A. Farber, SVP, Strategic Technology and Innovation Group, Booz | Allen | Hamilton) was that the data belongs to the consumer. The energy provider has the right to work with the data, but then needs to return the data to the consumer.

We think the system they described for managing the privacy of data relies too heavily on trust. ISVs can add value by developing tools that transparently provide producers an opportunity to work with data, but, nevertheless, safeguard the ownership rights of the consumer. Any tools in this category should provide a capability to render the data anonymous.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2013 All Rights Reserved

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