US utility software company Opower has developed software that allows customer to receive usage data whether they have a smart meter or analogue meter, says Opower Labs in a recent blog post.
The algorithm supplies a personalised breakdown of a customer’s energy use into categories such as HVAC, appliances and hot water, which Opower says works reliably for customers with traditional energy meters.
Software engineers Justin Spradlin and John Vint said: “When existing hardware is lacking in intelligence, you can often compensate for it by applying software intelligence. Customers whose meters are read once a month can get a level of insight that’s very similar to what they’d get if their meter logged data every 15 minutes.” [Read this: Deep data – less is more when analysing meter information]
How the algorithm works
Data analytics involve a strategic combination of data on historical energy consumption, weather patterns, household characteristics, user input, and other key variables.
“We know the algorithm produces accurate results as you can do razor-sharp disaggregation analytics on a smart meter (say, one that takes hourly electric reads), and compare those results to what you’d get if that same meter were actually a ‘dumb’ meter,” explain Mr Spradlin and Mr Vint.
“To simulate this, one can simply mash together a smart meter’s 720 hourly reads (over the course of a month) into one single monthly usage read — which is exactly what a dumb meter would give you.”
By following this approach and incorporating a sufficient amount of related data (e.g. historical statistics, weather, household characteristics, etc.), the Opower algorithm is able to produce consistent estimates across the two meter scenarios. This outcome indicates that, at least for certain applications, you can take a dumb meter and turn it into a smarter one.
Personalised energy advice
Opower says software intelligence can also be used to build an integrated software platform that can turn back-end calculations into personalised advice for utility customers. [Read this – Opower shares learnings on behavioural energy efficiency]
In July 2014, Opower sent a personalised email to 85,000 utility customers in northeast America before a string of hot days. The communication allowed all customers — even though the vast majority of them did not have smart meters — to see a personalised and disaggregated view of their seasonal electricity consumption, in effect educating them on how savvy use of their thermostat could make a big impact in controlling energy costs during the imminent heat wave.