Big Data – Big Noise

bigdataIt seems like the topic of big data is all the buzz these days. Somehow, the hope is that if you put enough big data in a barrel, stir it all around with some secret statistical sauce, you get magical results. Yeah, right… Dream on!
I have been at this way too many years to put up with such nonsense. Face it. Big data by itself simply results in big noise. If you want to find the gold nuggets buried in that big data, you need noise reduction algorithms and analytics operating on the filtered data.
Right now, I am sitting in a room filled with people talking and with a lot of ambient noise while listening to some beautiful classical music on Pandora … but the reason I can do that is that I am listening to it on Bose noise-canceling headphones. I can tell there are people talking … but I can still hear the clear sounds of the music. The noise has been reduced so much that I can truly enjoy the music.
Therefore, if big data is on your agenda, invest in some good noise reduction technology. Otherwise, you won’t be able to differentiate Beethoven from Bon Jovi. And, you won’t enjoy it either.
We have been experimenting to see what can be extracted from simple utility billing data combined with weather information and run through our analysis engine. The results are staggering. Would you like to know which of your customers are likely to have demand response potential because they keep their homes in winter at a toasty 72°F and which ones hold a chilly 70°F in the summer? How about which have gas water heating, and which are using far more or far less energy than engineering estimates would predict? Those criteria would identify the best targets for energy efficiency programs, demand response offerings, or sales prospects.
We are currently researching the possibilities with one of our utility clients and will be sharing the results on an Apogee Institute Webinar on March 25th at 2PM Eastern. Technology is advancing at warp speed and what was impossible just a year ago is now at our fingertips. We can deliver prospects with laser beam focus as opposed to expensively broadcasting an offer to the masses.
The combination of the best noise reduction and analytics can take big data to a big financial payoff in your world. Join us on the Webinar by signing up on our website:  Seating is limited register today.

Moving from Anecdotes to Analytics

analyticsHave you noticed how many conversations you have each day that are based upon anecdotes? It probably started with “how did you sleep last night?” Today’s fitness monitors are changing all that. You can now see your sleep pattern, how quickly you fall asleep, how deep your sleep is, etc. Sure, the engineers on this blog will say that the analytics are not precise, but they are certainly a lot more precise than the anecdotes they are replacing.

The energy industry is facing a similar transition. It is moving way past segmentation and personas (which are even less personal than anecdotes) to personalized messaging methods. But, the next big wave will be the transition to business analytics platforms. Here are just a few examples:

Home Performance Analytics – Consider not just the age and size of the home, but the actual operating energy performance. How would you like to know which homes are the most efficient and the least efficient without talking to the customer at all? While it is obvious from the electric bills which homes have gas heat, why not pick out the homes that are using space heaters as well? Why not pick out homes that have significant air distribution losses. Spot those old heat pumps before they fail and help customers see the benefits of replacing them with new ones while also finding customers running space heaters and show them the benefits of the new through-the-wall high-efficiency heat pumps?

Home Behavior Analytics – We have proven we can now identify how homeowners are setting their thermostats just from the same billing histories we have always used in the past! Yes, you read that correctly. So, perhaps you might like to target customers who are holding cool temperatures for your demand response program for this next summer. Use your creative side to think of all the ways this might help you target customers for all types of programs and services. In addition, our math lets you compare each and every home to itself in the past … M&V on a home-by-home basis.

Home Progress Reports – Offer all your customers year-on-year and even month-to-month progress reports showing them how their energy use is really changing. Otherwise, customers get fooled into thinking that their savings efforts are in vain when their improvements are blunted by colder than normal winters and then hotter than normal summers.

It is time to replace the stories about how energy is used in the home with real, reliable analytics. Give us a call to see how we can make this a reality in your company.

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Expanding Energy Efficiency to Economic Efficiency

CRMThe utility industry seems to have reached a watershed moment on EE … it has done such a good job that load growth has been halted, but customers are still not doing all that well.  We all seem to agree that the basic problem is the economy is not growing and where it does; it is not producing the jobs that have been lost.  So, we all seem to agree that growing the local economy is important and beneficial.

Then how about making that a priority in our local relationships?  If you have a key account program, do you have an extension to small business?  That is where we all know the growth comes from.  In addition, what are your purchasing practices?  Do you buy local where you can?  And, if you don’t because you feel the local supplier prices is higher, do you consider any premium over the lowest price being justified because the money stays in the community?

Economists all understand the trickledown theory and it has a lot of intuitive and relational value.  Money spent in the community not only helps preserve the companies directly, but also tends to support many other goods and services in the community.  This can obviously support and create jobs.

Sure, that may not help the general economy across the country, but let’s face it.  A utility’s relationship to its communities is local.  Maybe it is time that we made that more of a priority.

I remember when I came into this industry and started working with Georgia Power.  The industrial marketing reps wore special red ties that indicated Georgia Power supported the textile industry.  That represents big industry, but I also remember when I bought my first typewriter directly from IBM.  Their representative came to my house and helped me select one.  After it arrived, he checked in with me to be sure it was working well.  A few months later, he called to see if I would like another typeface and some new ribbons.  He stopped by every six months to visit and I asked him how we could justify that.  To this day, I cherish his perspective when he offered this explanation:

“Joel, I can tell that you are going to be a successful entrepreneur.  And, when you need other things to help your company succeed, I want you to always come to me for help.  One of these days, you might place an order for 100 or even 1,000 typewriters.  The relationship I have with you is everything to me.”

Relationships and helping people succeed through serving others in those relationships is pretty good advice for any business these days. secure web browser .

What if Elon Musk built Home Energy Management Systems?

Elon MuskElon Musk is now clearly the Steve Jobs of the auto industry and the ICON for the electric vehicle.  If you have been keeping up with TESLA you already know that his company is reshaping that industry.  He is just about a year or so from going “mainstream” with a family car design that can truly make people want to own electric vehicles even if they never thought they wanted one.

Making people want something … pretty different from asking people to participate, isn’t it?

No one carries a tape playing Sony Walkman around anymore.  In fact, the idea of “owning” a collection of music seems just so 90’s doesn’t it?  Pandora would not be possible in that old model, and there appears to be plenty of room for many others.  Frankly, I can’t keep up with all the look-alikes here.

I just bought my wife a Sonos 1 speaker because it just seemed “so her.”  She can place it anywhere in the house and control the music from either her iPhone or her PC, or whatever.  The music system learns what she likes and will serve up other music … which of course she can buy for her library if she wants to … or not.  Personalized choices everywhere you look coupled to absolute convenience and the service is free.

Meanwhile, within the electric utility industry, we think people want to listen to smart grid data or bills as their information channels … we need to dish up information in much better ways, don’t you think?

Susan spoke about that on her most recent webinar.  Check it out here.

A New, New Year’s Resolution: Getting back your Mojo

2015Funny how many new words have crept into the English language.  Scanning the Wall Street Journal this morning, I was struck by how this word “Mojo” is now used in leadership critiques even though it has its roots in rather base physical attributes.  Here is how an article in Forbes Magazine used the word to describe its meaning:

“Embarking on something new is the most exciting, energizing feeling in the world. We get fired up and can’t stop talking about it, at least for a while. Then, inevitably, we hit a plateau. Stagnation sets in and we lose our mojo.  For the purposes here, I’m assuming mojo refers to desire, passion, or motivation.  Here are what the best of the best entrepreneurs and venture-backed CEOs do when they’ve lost theirs.”

Hardly a utility industry meeting goes by without the keynote speakers emphasizing that the industry needs to innovate and be entrepreneurial.  It certainly seems to be facing stagnation.  Is the problem our mojo?  Boy, I haven’t heard that from the podium!

Read Forbes Article 7 Ways to Get Your Mojo Back (Yeah, Baby!)

The article points out precisely the elements I have been blogging about.  But, I think we all know down deep in our hearts that these seven ways are easy to spout but hard to actually do.  They all start with the word “change” and perhaps that is the central problem.  We really have almost no reward for change in our lives … it only represents risk.  Even if we believe in it, our critics sit around waiting for us to stumble and then point to whatever we try as a crackpot idea … when in most cases it isn’t a bad idea at all.  We haven’t given it enough time, enough resources, or studied how to improve it.

Desire and passion for change.  Nope.  Not going to happen from within the energy industry … or is it?

Then perhaps the industry needs to closely study those with mojo who are trying to change it.  What is it they see that you don’t?  How can they stay so focused on disrupting your world while you seem so content with believing it will stay the same?  Maybe then, rather than make New Year’s resolutions about weight and exercise, we should stop waiting and exercise our mojo.

I wish you all a happy and inspired New Year.