As the renewable energy market continues to grow in the United States, Silicon Valley is now seeing an increasing number of initiatives designed to drive development of applications that leverage real-time data flows.

Smart Grids in Search of Interoperability

The Internet of Things is not the only field of activity where the constant flow of data generated by networks on a daily basis is being gathered and shared. For a number of years now ‘smart’ electricity grids have been drawing on information from millions of connected sensors and meters, which enables them to manage power generation and distribution flows more efficiently. According to the Institute for Electric Innovation, the United States currently already has over 46 million smart connected meters installed and worldwide production should soon reach over 100 million per year. At the moment however, optimal use of this data is being held back by a lack of common standards that would allow developers to create wider-reaching applications. In a bid to free up this bottleneck in the information chain, a US tech player is developing an API-generating platform for developers.

Rising data volumes, usage imbalances

There are many sources of information on the real time status of electricity generation and consumption in the US and worldwide. Electricity grids linked to a large fleet of industrial electric meters are the prime source. However there is a lot of equipment being operated by a variety of companies which also produces vast amounts of critical data that could potentially render day-to-day energy management much more accurate. Thermostats, such as those made byNest, and other household accessories are key sources of data. The growing number of players means increasing amounts of data, but at the same time this situation makes it much harder to share the data and use it in digital applications. Explains Anil Gadre, head of Product Management and Product Marketing at Silver Spring Networks, there is now a definite imbalance between the volume of data being gathered and practical applications such as e-billing and smart detection of grid outages.

Helping to integrate applications

Using a new approach to unlocking insights from real-time Smart Grid data to provide business added value, Californian company Silver Spring Networkshas launched a platform, called the SilverLink Sensor Network, which creates open development kits that enable app developers to draw on the data coming from various different networks without having to master each network’s proprietary network protocols. The platform thus helps app developers, electricity distributors and other collectors of data to interact seamlessly along the information chain. In the longer term, Silver Spring Networks, which manages in the Cloud the available APIs and the apps which are developed, plans to position itself as the Apple Store of Smart Grid applications, through a ‘SilverLink App Store’, by having its unique interoperability standard widely adopted by this booming sector. A number of Silver Spring partner companies have announced their intention to use this new platform so as to offer apps on a wider scale. North Carolina-based PlotWatt, which creates personalized smart meter data analysis solutions, and Californian firm Bidgely, which specializes in home energy usage data analytics, are just two of the companies that provide personalized recommendations to electricity customers to help them lower their energy bills by tracking and displaying their power consumption on a daily basis. The SilverLink Sensor Network is also intended to offer larger-scale solutions for the leading power generation companies in the United States. Silver Spring partner AutoGrid shares petabytes of both structured and raw data from electricity grids, using Big Data technology to provide a real-time status for grid activity. This startup, which is one of the original partners of Silver Spring Networks, received $12.8 million in Series C funding this week.

By Thomas Meyer
Journalist, Business Analyst