Utilities are investing lots of money in software and platforms to analyze the data streaming in from smart meters, grid sensors and other energy assets. But they may not be as tuned in to the data that can help predict how their customers are going to use the energy they deliver -- or how to start offering new products and services that expand that relationship.
Trove Predictive Data Science says its data fusion technology can help fill in those gaps between the utility and consumer sides of the equation. Last week, the company announced it has raised $8.4 million from investors including two new strategic partners -- Spokane, Wash.-based utility Avista and smart metering giant Itron -- interested in putting its capabilities to use.
Trove is already working with Avista, along with utilities including Oklahoma Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison, and an unnamed large Southeastern utility, on projects ranging from demand response program marketing and outreach to load forecasting based on consumer data.
Trove CEO Isaias Sudit says the companys specialty is in pulling together hundreds of sources of data on utility customers, including property records, department of motor vehicle records, government information, and consumer and demographic information. It then merges all that data with the data coming from utility smart meters and puts it to use to solve specific utility business challenges.
We see a lot of companies that say they have analytics that are rendering data, or providing visualization tools for that data, he said in a Monday interview. We see ourselves as a data science company. The difference is, We go and ask what questions the utility needs to answer, to help them with operations, to help them with products and services they provide, to help them with load forecasting in the future, to help them with financial forecasting.
The other part is really understanding the customer, he said. We spent about two years working with key data vendors in the industry to provide us with a very robust database of consumer data that comes from the residential and commercial side of the equation.
These are the same kinds of promises being held out by a long list of data analytics providers, of course, ranging from giants like Oracle, IBM, SAS, Teradata, EMC and SAP, to startups such as C3 Energy and AutoGrid, to name a few. Likewise, most of the big smart meter companies are building analytics capabilities to expand the value of the data theyre collecting, or acquiring startups to help out, as Sensus did with Verdeeco, or as Silver Spring Networks has done with Detectent.
Sudit laid out some key differentiators in the way Trove goes about its business. First, it layers its analytics capabilities on top of existing utility data warehouse systems -- very robust, very scalable high-throughput systems from the likes of Teradata, Oracle or EMC Greenplum, he said. That does limit its addressable market to larger utilities that have invested in such systems, as opposed to companies that are promising to provide those core capabilities on their own.
Second, it focuses specifically on customer data, he said. For example, one of Troves earliest utility customers, OG&E, used the companys expertise to help it determine which customers were the best targets for its smart-meter and smart thermostat-based demand response program. But while Trove was able to help OG&E achieve a double-digit percentage improvement in the uptake of this DR offering compared to traditional utility marketing approaches, it isnt involved in the analytics that help optimize the ongoing operations of that program -- thats being done by Silver Spring Networks and AutoGrid.
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