We’re building it: come on in and build your own too

Traditionally, energy data that accurately breaks down how energy is used in our homes and businesses just hasn’t been readily available to energy innovators. To model concepts, to test ideas, to build solutions around. Wattwatchers is closing the gap for solution developers and researchers.

‘If you build it, they will come.’ The origin of this famous—though commonly misquoted—line of movie dialogue traces back to the 1989 American sports fantasy film, Field of Dreams.

In the film a character called Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) hears a strange whispering voice saying: ‘If you build it, he will come.’ The ‘it’ was a baseball field in the middle of nowhere, and when Ray built it, a ghostly team of deceased players appeared.

The phrase speaks to a leap of faith: that if you create something that wasn’t there beforehand, that players and audiences will materialise.

When it comes to energy innovation, the ‘players’ that we want to materialise—the people building creative solutions for a bright and sustainable energy future—are very much alive, and well. 

But what of the ‘playing field’? In particular, a field of data rather than dreams. Is it ready and available when they come?

The transformative power of data

Following the Lean Startup ethos, innovators know they can’t just expect that ‘they will come’ and everything they need will just be there. But something Lean Startups are very much encouraged to do is ‘build’… the smallest thing to test your riskiest hypothesis.

In energy, those ‘smallest things’ more often than not need real data. Data to model with, to understand the problem space. To test new ideas, and see their real impact. To deliver an MVP. And not just 30 minute grid-level data that’s delivered 24 hours (or more) in arrears…

In the Darwinian world of incubators and accelerators, getting data can make the difference between startup life and death!

A solution… that brings further challenges?

The rise of Internet of Things (IoT) energy technologies—like those Wattwatchers provides—is changing the picture in terms of capturing data independently of traditional, highly-regulated utility billing meters, or private sub-metering, or proprietary data ‘walled gardens.’

But the technology itself only solves part of the problem. There are still a lot of costs and logistical overheads associated with creating, deploying and managing energy IoT devices. Costs that inhibit lean innovators, requiring more up-front capital to execute and increasing the risk profile of the business—all in a risk-averse investment environment!

And at the same time, global concern about consumer data rights, especially privacy and security, are raising the bar around collecting and sharing datasets, including energy ones, and controlling fleets of smart devices. This creates further challenges for time- and resourced-stretched startups to bring innovations to market.

Welcome to our ‘marketplace’ model

Though not ‘magical’, there are ‘field of dreams’ qualities in the real-time, highly-granular energy data and control that Wattwatchers enables and makes available through the cloud. Equally important is the ever-expanding reservoir of customer-permissioned energy datasets we are accumulating.

With the My Energy Marketplace project*, Wattwatchers is pioneering a highly-flexible smart energy solutions model that creates a market for energy data to operate in parallel with the market for electrons.

The Marketplace leverages our digital energy platform that promotes easy integration via a robust, secure and well-documented API, interoperability between different hardwares and softwares, portability and shareability of data, and choice of apps and services for consumers.

But we’re going further. In addition to providing a way to reach up to 5,000 energy-engaged customers, we are also providing tools that allow them to provide you with access to their energy data—so you can provide your service—in much the same way as they would ‘Sign in using Facebook’ or ‘Sign in using Google’.

The strategic importance of flexibility

Our technology field of dreams doesn’t have a fixed view of what the future of energy looks like, nor exactly what tech solutions will enable it. Built-in flexibility is vital, if only because of the inherent uncertainty facing the energy sector.

Will home batteries really scale, or will on-grid community batteries and big batteries prevail? How will electric vehicles play out, especially if two-way charging (vehicle-to-home and vehicle-to-grid) proliferates? Where will we end up with all of the demonstrations and early commercial rollouts of virtual power plants (VPPs), demand response aggregations, peer-to-peer and local energy trading, and community microgrids?

Will ‘middleware’ win the day in creating multiple new, more nimble energy trading platforms, or fade from view as traditional market operators shift their models? Will blockchain find its place in the solutions mix? What about IoT, user experience (UX), machine learning and artificial intelligence (ML and AI), and virtual and augmented reality (AR)?

But also, what of the ‘left of field’ creative solutions that we haven’t thought of yet? That we want to see arise in the world, be they more traditional ‘energy sector’ applications or ‘non-energy’ solutions that use energy data in unconventional ways?

Whatever the outcomes of the energy transition, it is certain that smart devices, data and remote control will play foundational roles. And it’s important to have many ‘players’ who will take these key ingredients and bake them into solutions for consumers, industry and the energy system.

Get data and support to ‘build your own’

Reflecting the importance of making data accessible to innovators, both early ones and more established players, our newly-refreshed website includes a very important use case: ‘Build your own…’ 

There, we invite you and other innovators to come on in! Does all of this resonate with you?

If so, here are six things that Wattwatchers can help innovators with:

  • Permissioned access to smart devices and their monitoring and control capabilities;
  • An accessible and well-documented API to access data, in real-time;
  • Our customisable ADEPT platform that brings energy data together with the broader IoT and data ecosystem, in a rapidly-customisable solution space;
  • Lessons learnt from consumer and community-focused grant projects (including My Energy Marketplace*, supported by ARENA, and MyTown Microgrid underwritten by the Australian Government);
  • In-house expertise and willingness to collaborate; and
  • In the near future—options to lower the ‘friction’ of bringing early users on to your platform, and gaining access to their data to shape your services and test or promote your offers (i.e. by leveraging the MyEnergy app user-base).

What do you need to get started?

You don’t need magical properties to start playing on the Wattwatchers smart energy field of dreams. Just a good idea and relevant skills. 

We’ll put together a plain-English collaboration agreement between us to ensure that the intellectual property and ownership rights—especially yours and MEM users—are protected, and that no one misuses data or threatens privacy, personal security and cybersecurity.

Once that’s in place, we can provide you with a Wattwatchers API key for access to data and control functionality.

There may be commercial fees involved, depending on the scale and maturity of your enterprise or research institution, the volume and complexity of the data or control access you require, and the level of support you need from us.

But we have a positive-impact bias towards helping to kickstart innovation that will ‘work with Wattwatchers’ and/or otherwise help deliver an energy future that is clean, smart, fair, reliable and affordable.

In fact, that’s a big part of why I’m here at Wattwatchers. One of my professional passion-points—reflected in my current role—is finding opportunities for data-sharing that move the needle in terms of energy innovation, and collaborations that will give creators and disruptors a leg up.

We’re building it, and we hope you will come too.

Link to Hubspot form

Let us help you get your idea off the ground, to see how our datasets and technology stack can build your own ‘field of dreams,’ connecting you with data and customers.

Grant Young is Wattwatchers’ Chief Innovation Officer.

*ARENA ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

The My Energy Marketplace project is receiving funding from ARENA as part of ARENA’s Advancing Renewables Program. The views expressed herein are not necessarily the views of the Australian Government, and the Australian Government does not accept responsibility for any information or advice contained herein.