Big data meets the smart grid

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Utilities will soon be overwhelmed with a tsunami of big data, from their newly-installed smart grid networks and smart meters. But that’s really an opportunity. According to Pike Research, the market for smart grid data analytics — software and services that can mine data and provide intelligence for smart grid vendors, utilities and consumers — could reach a cumulative $11.3 billion between 2011 to 2015.

One of the important things to know about all this incoming data, is that eventually a lot of it will be in real time. Utilities will one day be able to use the data from their smart grid networks for split-second decisions like to help with load management, outage avoidance, and demand response.

On the consumer portion of the smart grid, real time data is important, too, and will offer consumers immediate feedback on their energy consumption via smart meters or energy web sites. A lot of utilities will be supplying data like this to customers in 15 minute intervals.

Beyond the obvious grid and consumer management applications, it could be the data analytics that can create value from data in ways that utilities are not expecting that could have the most value. For example, data that can be mined to make their systems more efficient, or enable utilities to predict the outcome of events.

Data analytics is one area where IT and Internet companies could rule supreme — they’ve been mining data and creating smart algorithms for years. A host of IT giants are already involved in smart grid data analytics, including Accenture, Capgemini, HP, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, SAIC, SAP and Siemens among them. Smaller, newer entrants include OPOWER, OSIsoft, Telvent, Ecologic Analytics and eMeter.

Image courtesy of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory via Creative Commons license.

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