Q&A with Dr. Dario Gil, the director of the Smarter
Energy Research Institute
The Smarter Research Institute (SERI) was
publicly announced last October with the goal of creating the utility of the
future. Dr. Dario Gil, its director, described the institute’s partners as
“researching and developing techniques that improve the balance between energy
supply and demand using predictive analytics, optimization, visualization and
This month SERI hosts its first conference of partners,
clients, and energy and utility experts from across the globe to discuss and
demonstrate the institute’s projects and goals. Dr. Gil answered a few
questions about SERI’s
progress, the conference, and creating the
utility of the future.
What progress has been made in Energy Research in the
months since SERI's announcement, last year?
Dario: We now have six active projects with the three
founding SERI members (Alliander of the Netherlands, Hydro Quebec of Canada, and
DTE Energy of Michigan). All of the projects now have their first prototype
applications, which are being demonstrated at the inaugural SERI Conference.
There is much work left to do to turn them into operational applications – the
coming year will be focused on that.
Since SERI's announcement in October of 2012, the U.S.
alone has experienced Hurricane Sandy and severe tornados in Oklahoma, while
Central Europe has experienced historic flooding. What kind of predictive
capabilities are the SERI partners working on that may help prepare for, and
possibly prevent, the damage from such natural disasters?
Dario: One of SERI’s applications, called OPRO
(Outage Prediction and Response Optimization), relies on a predictive weather
service within IBM Research called Deep
Thunder. It provides high-resolution forecasts up to three days in advance,
with the intent (in the case of OPRO) to provide utilities more precise time,
location and damage prediction estimates to help them better prepare for and
respond to severe weather.
SERI's projects, such as the integration of renewable and
distributed energy resources, and wide-area situational awareness (WASA) to
detect grid anomalies, deal with Big Data. Where is the data coming from, and
how is SERI analyzing it to uncover insights?
Dario: The WASA application consumes high velocity
data coming from Phasor Measurement Units (PMUs) that Hydro Quebec has deployed
across their transmission grid. In order to create timely alerts that can allow
an operator to react within seconds to potentially prevent large blackouts, the
WASA application must be able to ingest high velocity data and perform rapid
analytics ‘in flight’ – this is probably the best example of the velocity
component of real time Big Data analysis across the current SERI projects.
Screenshot: Wide-Area situation Awareness
What's next for SERI?
Dario: We hope to expand the portfolio of
applications as new members join SERI over the course of the next year. We have
many new ideas worthy of exploration, ranging from demand-response
technologies, to using text analytics to improve utility operations.Certainly extreme weather directly motivates
some of the work in SERI, such as the OPRO application, but other projects
focus on stabilizing the use of renewable
energy sources, for example.
Interested in join the Smarter Energy Research Institute?
Membership requires a two-year minimum commitment, in order
to address large-scale business, planning or operational issues that will
provide extraordinary value to the member.
Members are free to deploy the software code and algorithms
developed in SERI, and are encouraged to participate in and contribute to each
of their own projects as well as collaborate with and share in other members'
Members define up to two projects with IBM Research, and
have rights to the outcomes of all SERI projects.
Membership is limited, and members have a seat at the table
with IBM Research to guide the direction of SERI through the Governance
For inquiries regarding joining SERI, please contact IBM Research Solutions Sales Manager Thomas