Data Analytics = Improved Convenience?

The analysis of energy consumption is essential if utilities are aiming to enhance customer relationships.
Published: Wed 04 Dec 2013
Joel Hagan, CEO, Onzo, maintains that to improve energy efficiency, shift peak demand, offer new energy services and lower operational costs, analytics is the key.
Beyond consumption
Onzo has been developing software that uses sophisticated algorithms so that an entire house’s energy can be broken down into streams of energy data. Even data about individual appliances can be tapped in to. Mr Hagan explains that it is essential for consumers to understand their consumption better: “We are all used to receiving it and paying for it but we actually never really think about how we use it.” 
Currently, data collection intervals run from between 15 minutes to 1 hour. Mr Hagan points out that it can be difficult to see much within this resolution. However, Onzo has algorithms that can extract a great deal of data from the 15 minute interval.
Although the 15 minute data collection interval can provide information on large timed loads such as heating and air conditioning, the one second to one minute level of data collection can access more detailed data about appliances such as the washing machine and the fridge. It also captures data from even more appliances. Data about smaller power consumers like the mobile charger won’t be captured as they don’t use as much energy and they don’t get used often enough.
The data reveals the actual existence and efficiency of an appliance. Information about the appliance’s condition is relayed, as well as its deterioration over time. Using this data, analytics may suggest the replacement or repair of an appliance ahead of its complete breakdown. Consumers will benefit from a more efficient appliance and lower power bill, utilities will benefit from the improved energy efficiency overall, and appliance manufacturers will be thrilled with the sales opportunities. Another plus for consumers is if the energy supplier offers a payback when more energy efficient appliances are purchased.
There are other clever ways of applying the knowledge as well, according to Mr Hagan, “We have an algorithm that spots change in the level of usage. For instance, if your heating has come on significantly before others, we can advise that your bill will be higher than others in the area as most consumers have yet to switch their heating on. This doesn’t mean that we will tell consumers to switch their heating off but it certainly gives consumers the opportunity to make a decision based on that data. They can now begin to understand what the implications will be and make a decision based on that.” 
Customer interaction must be convenient
 This obviously requires a great deal of interaction from the customer for it to work. However, it is essential that consumers are given an efficient and comfortable energy experience. Mr Hagan says that automation of control is the way forward as it caters for convenience in the face of busy lifestyles. He explains: “People don’t have time to switch things on and off according to climate and schedule.
Our company has developed algorithms that will assist the system set default options for the consumer. The options are designed to suit individual family lifestyles and needs. With this system in place, the consumer doesn’t have to lift a finger as everything will be updated for them. Today, it’s all about convenience, cost and comfort.” 
Today’s busy consumer wants less interaction with its energy supplier. Convenience is key here. As most people use their mobile phones to carry out their day to day schedules, it makes sense to give the consumer control of his or her power from the mobile phone. 
We asked Mr Hagan if this could be the reason why display systems didn’t thrive in the UK. He agreed in part but pointed out that utilities have performed small scale pilots with poorly-designed technology in terms of human interaction. “You can’t condemn technology when utilities are testing poor versions of it.”
Research shows that the younger generation is less paranoid about the collection of personal data. Cost, comfort and convenience are most important to this generation, explains Mr Hagan. He says that the new generation is not too concerned about the automation of data collection as they understand it will be used for their own benefit. It is essential then that personalized information is assimilated and analyzed. This will be more relevant than the general data which is sent to a large-scale population. 
Although the benefits of energy data analysis are clear, Mr Hagan adds that consumers must still be given the choice. Not everyone will want their personal information analyzed, even if there are personal benefits.
Much needed skills
Skill sets in the data analytics space is extremely limited but are expected to grow, according to Mr Hagan. Although these skill sets are in demand, the skills must correspond with the industry because “skill is nothing without the correct application.”