Todayâ€™s low temperature at my house is -1Â F (-18Â C) with a wind chill of -25Â F (-32Â C). This got me thinking about APIs for Utilities. The old joke is â€śeverybody complains
about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.â€ť Well, maybe we canâ€™t change the weather, but perhaps we can help the utility companies make us more comfortable through the use of APIs.
Once again Iâ€™ll use the structure I introduced a few weeks ago (here).
Mobile App Development â€“ Most energy companies are starting to supply Mobile Apps accessing back end systems. Use of APIs makes this simpler and easier to maintain as well as enhances security. Common capabilities include:
- Basic APIs – common information for all users – energy saving information, rate information, payment/office locations, contact information
- Custom APIs: billing, making payments, reporting/checking on outage information, submit a meter reading, account information, usage history.
- Mobile advantages include finding and mapping nearby office locations, use of the camera and GPS coordinates to report line damage, and home energy management via a mobile app.
What APIs are available today in Energy and Utilities? Here are just a few samples of public APIs:
- EcoSCADA – Used to monitor energy consumption and identify wasteful energy use. EcoSCADA is useful for establishing benchmarks for energy usage across multiple buildings and monitoring their performance against those benchmarks. The service records data on gas, electricity, and water consumption as well as other relevant factors.
- OpenADR – A way for electricity providers and system operators to communicate Demand Response (DR) signals with each other and with their customers. Demand Response can be used to ease severely constrained electrical grids, postponing or even averting energy crises.
- Clean Power Estimator – Estimates cost savings and environmental benefits from renewable energy system installations. It accepts inputs such as the location of a proposed system and its likely performance parameters such as technologies employed, specific models and numbers of equipment to be used, and environmental improvements.
Besides creating Mobile Apps for their own customerâ€™s accounts, there are many other areas where APIs can provide value for Utilities.
Partnering â€“ Weather has the largest impact on energy usage â€“ heat in the summer, cold in the winter, and severe storms all drive usage. APIs using weather resources along with analytics and devices (see below) provide proactive capabilities ahead of weather situations and also support quick reactions during the events.
Regulations have driven many USA based utilities to new business models where one entity supplies energy and another delivers it. These partnerships still need to result in a single bill to the consumer while supporting many different payment plans and partnerships. Use of APIs to integrate the service providers, independent system operators (ISO), and metering services with service delivery is the simplest method to enable these partnerships.
APIs can also be used to integrate with Emergency Management in situations such as hurricanes or with construction or repair situations for buildings or roads where energy needs to be stopped or started.
Public APIs â€“ As mentioned customers now have a choice of energy providers. The obvious next step is a comparison app. APIs supporting access to the potential plan options and pricing are public APIs that could be used by an independent App developer.
Another example is providing control of energy usage through Apps or devices in the home. Temperature can be raised when people enter a room and lowered when people exit to save energy. Providing public APIs to allow for third party devices to control the temperature helps drive energy savings.
Social â€“ Following security, the second highest challenge for Utilities is meeting customer expectations (see Energy Digital). Two way communication with customers is critical to addressing this challenge and today this is most easily done through social media.
Participation in Facebook pages for communities to post information and watch for opportunities can be achieved through use of Facebookâ€™s APIs. Posting status updates (especially during power issues) to twitter is another opportunity. Finally participation in interest groups for environmental issues can help meet customer expectations.
Devices â€“ The Internet of Things (IoT â€“ see Claus Jensenâ€™s earlier blog) has a strong relationship to API usage by utilities. Sensors on transmission lines, asset monitors, and
smart appliances are generating information that can be used to find potential issues before they become real ones. APIs can be used to access this data to address issues in advance.
Smart meters for reporting usage and adjusting power consumption can use APIs to do the reporting or take direction from the utility.
Data â€“ Perhaps the most beneficial use of APIs is accessing data resources. Utilities can provide comparative analytics for a customer comparing current usage to past usage or their neighbors to try to encourage customers to save energy.
Real time situation management can be enhanced through the use of APIs accessing outage information, work management, and business analytics to create management dashboards and invoke automated actions to manage situations such as severe storms. APIs can also access CRM systems and social media to communicate with customers and keep them informed â€“ driving higher customer satisfaction.
Other use cases for data APIs can include reporting, forecasting, and situation simulation.
Customers set high expectations for Utilities. We are a connected world using devices that run on energy and we expect energy to be available in as much quantity as desired at any time. Real time access to data, real time reaction to issues enabled through APIs can help the utility companies meet these demands by being proactive rather than reactive. The infrastructure aspects of IBMâ€™s Smarter Cities initiatives include addressing energy needs. See this web site for additional information.