Turning Data into Knowledge–and Action

dataMountains of data are becoming available to energy managers. The challenge is processing and displaying it all in ways that make the goals – increasing efficiency and saving money – more likely to be realized.

The industry may be in a transition phase as it adjusts to the avalanche of numbers coming from increasing common sub-meters and Internet of Things (IoT) platforms that are being introduced aggressively. David Ulmer, the Vice President of Implementation Solutions for utility software management firm EnergyCap, told Energy Manager Today that are five ways in which data collection and presentation is changing in facilities.

More Analyzing, Less Processing: Attendees at the company’s recent Catalyst Training for Savings conference and others with whom Ulmer has contact want to spend more time analyzing data and less time processing it. “If people spend a half hour less entering bills and instead use the time to look for opportunities for savings or finding issues with the facilities, they are thrilled. To them, that’s a really worthwhile investment,” Ulmer said.

Grow Granularity: Building and energy managers want more granular and detailed insight into what is going on in their facilities and are investing in sub-meter and interval data. “The granular view of a facility, whether there are any processes — even a manual process – that are not working well is important,” he said. “Having that granular data is really important to them. A lot people are interested in sub-metering and the ability to import interval data into their systems and correlate that data with utility bills.”

Make it Accessible: There has been a revolution in the displays – both the technology and the ways in which data is presented using that technology. Energy management focuses on comparisons between system, performance over time and other activities that lend themselves to graphical presentation.

In other words, energy management is in perfectly positioned to benefit from these rapidly evolving tools. “People want to see dashboards of data that are attractive to a broad audience and understood by people who in the past were not particularly interested in energy management,” Ulmer said. “This can help them find funding…The easier you can explain the story the better the story is to tell.”

Have Data, Will Travel: Energy managers want the data to be more accessible. Historically, Ulmer said, energy packages have run on desktop computers, which anchored managers to their desks. Now users want the data to be available on smartphones and tablets.

They also want the capability to export charts, graphs and other elements and embed it elsewhere “There are requests to embed energy data into other websites,” Ulmer said. “Take the dashboard and data and make it publishable oin intranets or integrate it with other data on system….It really goes hand in hand with making data more visible and easier to understand.”

Detailed and Customized Reporting: Finally, Ulmer says that the people with whom he speaks want to be able to customize data. Then want reports that be customized to offer high level information to some people and granular, highly detailed information to others.

Ulmer used a tool available from EnergyCap as an example:  The company offers an Excel plugin that extracts data out of its system. “This allows the use power of Excel and other familiar tools to format reports in any way they want,” Ulmer said.

Clearly, the ideas are related and, just as clearly, there is a coherent theme. People want data to be pertinent, accessible and relevant. “What people want to do is spend time on problems,” Ulmer said. “As you start to put the pieces together to easily identify outliers, process that are not going well — and those that are going well for use as models in the future. Making data usable and more intelligent is [a desire] that we are hearing from a lot of different places.”

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