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Data Jam Generates New Ideas For Using Energy Data

Experts brainstorm ways to use energy data in tools, products, and services.

InformationWeek Government - June 11, 2012
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The White House, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the Stanford Graduate School of Business recently brought together energy industry players to brainstorm new ways that energy data could be used to help people and companies conserve energy.

A massive amount of data exists on consumer and business energy usage, but it's woefully underutilized. The Energy Data Jam, held last month at Stanford University, brought together entrepreneurs, software developers, energy experts, corporate executives, and policy-makers to come up with ways that existing data could be used in tools, products, and services that would inform and educate the public and companies on energy usage. The get-together was part of the Obama administration's Energy Data Initiative, an effort to get businesses to use existing energy data to create tools to help people cut their energy use and bills.

Among the suggestions that came out of the gathering is an idea called Tweet My Building, which envisions a product or service that would let office buildings send messages via Twitter about their energy consumption, possibly with energy-efficiency tips.

One-Click Access

Several ideas would apply Green Button, an industry initiative spurred by the White House, in which participating utility companies provide customers with access to their energy-usage data in the simple format of a green button on their websites. Since the Green Button initiative was launched earlier this year, nearly a dozen utilities and electricity suppliers have committed to providing 27 million households with one-click access to data on their energy consumption.

One new idea would have consumers contribute Green Button data on their households' energy usage to research efforts. Another would provide an app or service that lets consumers see how much their energy really costs by combining Green Button data with information on tariffs and charges. Another suggestion is to develop a Green Button for data generated by the computers and microprocessors in cars.

Mobile apps were prominent among the concepts generated at the meeting. One, dubbed iReport Incidents, would let people inform utilities of outages, trees around wires, and other issues via text messages. Other suggestions included a mobile app that would give users information on Energy Star products, rebates, and electric rates, and one that would display charging stations and other electric vehicle-friendly establishments by location.

A more far-reaching idea is to create a unique identifier for every building in the country that could be used to track retrofit history, energy usage, and square footage. This would enable mashups with other data, such as LEED green building certification, and make it easier to implement energy policies.

A list of ideas from the Energy Data Jam can be found at informationweek.com/gov/energy. The Department of Energy also sponsored an Apps for Energy contest, and in May the department announced the first five winners.

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