IBM, Hildebrand to bring smart metering to U.K. homes

Rome, May 19, 2010 — IBM is teaming with energy consultant Hildebrand to help consumers make more informed decisions about their energy consumption with IBM data management software.

As part of this effort, citizens and companies are working together to make more efficient use of energy by collecting, storing and analyzing detailed energy usage information in real time from homes across the U.K.

The Hildebrand monitoring system enables real-time analysis of electricity usage for households, or even for individual appliances, to help people make better decisions about energy efficiency in the home and minimize their environmental impact.

Hildebrand received funding from the Seventh Framework Programme for EU Research (FP7) for a 30-month research project that would allow stakeholders from local authorities, private businesses and universities to study energy monitoring and its effect on human behavior.

The Hildebrand project involves installing small, low-cost energy monitoring devices at groups of homes in five European cities: Birmingham, Bristol and Manchester in the U.K, and Plovdiv and Ivanovo in Bulgaria.

Each of these groups form a “living lab,” giving the researchers access to real-world energy usage data, and allowing them to study the behavior of individuals and their attitudes towards energy management.

Homeowners can access this information online in a simple format that displays their electricity usage and perform analytics, such as calculating costs against the users’ electricity tariff, or comparing their usage to the average for their group.

The end result is that people can make more informed decisions about energy management and change their behavior in order to reduce electricity bills and minimize their environmental impact.

“Giving citizens more information and better control over their energy use will cut down on costs and consumption as well as reduce their overall impact on the environment,” said Guido Bartels, General Manager of Energy and Utilities at IBM. “With this collaboration, we can demonstrate how smart and connected communities can be more energy conscious and in turn, more sustainable.”

“IBM software delivered spectacular results. In the first proof-of-concept we simulated three million homes sending readings once a minute and we were able to capture nearly 50,000 readings per second using only a quad-core, dual-processor Intel server. In the second, we moved to a slightly larger server and found we could deliver analytics response times of between one and three seconds for a similar load,” said Clive Eisen, Chief Technology Officer at Hildebrand. “You don’t need to understand the technical details — the point is that suddenly, energy monitoring for three million homes or more became a practical proposition.”

Traditional databases struggle to deal with time-series data (i.e. “pulses” of data arriving at regular intervals from one or more sources), because their structure makes it difficult to store and index this data efficiently. Using IBM Informix however, Hildebrand was able to create a single database object for each data-source, and now simply updates it with the latest readings whenever a new ‘pulse’ of data arrives related to energy consumption. This provides a far more manageable information structure, which makes it easier to store, extract and analyze data.

The Hildebrand solution is powered by IBM Informix database software, using the Time Series capability.

IBM is working with clients in more than 100 smart grid engagements across emerging and mature markets.


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