6.11.2013

Creating the utility of the future

 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 advanced computation.”

Dario Gil
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. 

Screenshot: Outage Prediction & Response Optimization
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' projects.

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 Committee.

For inquiries regarding joining SERI, please contact IBM Research Solutions Sales Manager Thomas Ether (ether@us.ibm.com).

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