AutoGrid pulls in $9M to turn ‘big data’ into an energy source

The San Francisco Bay Area based AutoGrid, a startup founded in 2011, pulled in $9 million to continue the development of its software that helps utilities and businesses control their energy usage.

Founder and chief executive, Dr. Amit Narayan stated that “The capacity of the [smart] grid is not deployed efficiently”. His technology analyzes data collected by smart meters (by putting sensors on the electric grid) to enable operators to meet supply and demand. With the use of machine learning, which gets smarter over time, it can make predictions about energy consumption patterns inside buildings and across service regions. It can then forecast how much electricity will potentially be needed in the upcoming hours or days.

With the advent of analytics tools, we can begin to make predictions about the future and further optimize energy usage. “Up to 20 percent of the power-generating assets in some regions only get deployed ten or fewer days a year,” said Dr. Narayan. His current major customers include the City of Palo Alto Utilities and Sacramento Municipal Utility District.

  Dr. Amit Narayan

Before AutoGrid, Dr Amit Narayan taught on the topic of electronic design automation software at Berkeley and Stanford. He founded Berkeley Design Automation, which is used by more than 20 of the top 25 chip developers.

What’s interesting from a competitive standpoint is the company’s focus on pattern-recognition and predictive analysis. The company’s investors include Foundation Capital,  Voyager Capital, and Stanford University. Last year, it won a $5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy program to devote to improving the product.

Smart meters, it’s the future!


Android Bus Demo

Transport and the Internet of Things, a very common combination as companies all over the world are inventing technology to make transport systems smarter and easier to use. After our blogs on Libelium – the Spin Off company from the University of Zaragoza, which is very much into Internet of Things innovations – and Michigan’s pilot of connecting vehicles to enhance road safety by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DoT), we now like to share a video about the Digi Embedded Development Kit for Android.

This technology is created for the public transport system and provides bus operators with a screen that shows his/her position in route, the total number of bus stops, his/her ticket sales, a camera interface and the ability to change the music channel. Additionally, it provides a passenger display showing its position and the next bus stops to approach like we know from our tube systems. The technology also runs on smartphones showing citizens the bus’s position in real-time. In short, it has some interesting features around the concept of enhanced transport systems.

Have a look and enjoy…




Telefónica: new M2M innovations

Telefónica Digital has unveiled some of the innovations its researchers have been working on in the field of Machine to Machine (M2M) communications. It’s latest concept “Thinking Things” connects almost all devices wirelessly to the internet, enabling physical objects to be controlled remotely via a web page.

The Thinking Things concept exists of a physical module containing core communications and logic, energy via a battery or AC module, and a variety of sensors and actuators.

According to Telefónica, modules are connected together and then connected to the device they will control. The company gave the example of plugging in modules into a lamp to enable remote control of home lighting. Once connected, a new web page is created for the new device providing web-based access to control the functions of the physical modules.

All the web functions are offered through an API, so developers can build their own applications on top of the platform. The final element of Thinking Things will be a data services ecosystem. This will offer access to metadata from Telefónica’s network, leading to the development of tailored services and the ability to commercialise them.


Smart Cars

Machine to Machine (M2M) communications, and especially “Smart Cars” can improve accident prevention. The McGill Univesity (Montréal, Québec, Canada) has developed a pilot in collaboration with Libelium (Spin Off company from the University of Zaragoza, Spain) to handle remote controlled cars to lower the number of car accidents caused by human error.

On average, road traffic accidents are one of the most important causes of death on a global scale. It has been estimated by the World Health Organization that 150,000 people will be killed by 2020. The main reason for this is the increasing number of vehicles on the world’s roads (currently around 2 billion). The development of technology that enhances safety is therefore essential.

The advantage of Smart Cars, or even “driverless cars”, are their benefits beyond safety. They could drop someone off and then park themselves. Moreover, they would reduce the stress of driving, allowing their occupants to read, work or to get distracted. Some studies carried out by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) reveal that by 2040, driverless cars will account for up to 75 per cent of cars on the road worldwide.

The Smart Cars are expected to be completely developed within a few years from now. Please click on the image above to get a better understanding of how the smart cars work. While technology proves to enhance road safety, there are issues around people’s confidence in technology to hand over total control.

Besides the Smart Cars concept, Libelium is also involved in Vehicle Traffic Monitoring to monitor vehicular and pedestrian traffic in cities. The university’s Spin Off offers a platform that is capable of sensing the flow of Bluetooth devices in a given street, roadway or passageway and has the ability to differentiate hands-free car kits from pedestrian phones. With the use of an internet gateway, sensor data is transferred to a server. As a result, traffic measurements can be analysed to address congestion of either vehicle or pedestrian traffic. A very useful tool for city managers.

Machine to Machine communications will prove to become increasingly important in the near future. This form of the Internet of Things, will allow us to learn more of the environment we live in.


Three ways of how Big Data is being used today

Christine Twiford, Manager Network Technology Solutions T-Mobile, explained the three ways of how Big Data is being used at the moment. Big Data, THE buzzword and main topic of conversation in the technology and SME world, is being explored more and more.

According to Christine, Big Data is currently being used for:

  • Discovery
  • Decision-making
  • Persuasion

Regarding the ‘discovery’ aspect, she mentioned that Big Data is used to test data sets and to find ways to define and better understand them. This makes it understandable but also shareable and usable for corporations and individuals because Big Data is analyzed in such a way that it actually starts to make sense.

Secondly, Big Data is being used in decision-making. As soon as data sets are defined and narrowed down to understand the value of them, hypothesises can be created which can then be tested. Through this, real-life scenarios are developed and the influence of big data on citizens (or customers) can be measured.

Finally, after Big Data has been discovered (understanded) and has been used to test hypothesis and pilots, the outcomes can be used for persuasion. The outcomes of the use of big data can be visualised to share findings and push change and innovation.

Christine emphasises the importance of opening up both corporate and government data to drive the economy. In collaboration with academic researchers, government institutions and NGOs, great innovations can be realised. A close collaboration is necessary as “researchers need corporation’s data to do their research and corporations need the academic methods to do their research effectively”. Consequently, a true win-win situation will be realised.