WALTHAM, Mass.—Using data to deliver insights can take very different forms, even in the same industry. Consider the approaches two Boston-based companies take to offering analytics for energy and resource management at their customers’ commercial buildings.
EnerNOC monitors energy meters and other factors like weather in real time to understand energy usage and implement efficiency measures to take advantage of when the cost of electricity is at its lowest. Its system depends on the constant flow of information and quick diagnostics of up to the minute information.
Energy Points takes an approach that emphasizes historical data. Its system looks at the total consumption of water, fuel, electricity, waste and other factors to score its customers facilities on overall sustainability factors. Energy Points uses monthly updates to feed a simple scoring metric, like Weight Watchers’ points system that simplifies dieters’ views of calories, carbohydrates and fiber into a single metric.
There are a growing number of companies, including energy start-ups and utility mainstays, looking to use data analytics to uncover efficiencies and savings, what industry players consider low-hanging fruit using much of the data that’s already collected. Others are seeking ways to tap into the data coming from sensors and meters to both assess ongoing conditions and predict future trends. Executives from EnerNOC and Energy Points discussed their approaches at a Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council event here on May 2.
At EnerNOC, Prakriteswar Santikary said the company founded in 2004 has established processes to continually develop its systems based on an iterative and experimental approach to improvement.
Santikary said the company has had the chance to develop its own technology, and try several databases and platforms to optimize its product. Those technology trials and adoptions have always been routed in a specific business problem and that approach guides the company’s efforts.
“If you’re going to fail, you want to fail fast and then move on,” he said. “There is no perfect architecture because there are always external factors that are unknown. So you build it, learn on it, then iterate. That’s what knowledge is all about.”
Energy Points is a startup in its second year. Mike Rennick, director of applications at Energy Points, said the company may eventually get into a real-time analytics system; right now they scour any available public data to help them get a more complete picture and pair it with the data their customers supply.
“It’s hard to find, you have to be creative,” Rennick said. “It’s a lot of open source stuff, hunting and pecking around. It’s really kind of just being innovative, and it’s brute force.”
That system works for Energy Points; Rennick said the company is able to apply the metric in a batch process and help their customers better understand their own data.
“We want them to be more accurate,” Rennick said. “If they can understand what they’re truly doing, then they can make informed decisions about how they’re using their resources.”
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