Small startup brings big data tools to the smart grid

Editor's Note: To learn more about big data and smart grids, don't miss VERGE@Greenbuild Nov. 12-13 in San Francisco, Calif.

The smart grid presents an interesting problem for the world of big data, and particularly the field of unstructured data. Where traditional data management requires its data to be formalized and regimented, unstructured data systems take their data as-is, so to speak, from the literally uncountable numbers of inputs by which information is digitized, and then make sense of it.

That’s an approach ready-made for the heterogeneous and evolving world of smart grid big data, to be sure. All those smart meters, distribution automation systems, plug-in vehicle chargers and demand-response-enabled homes and businesses send and receive massive amounts of data, using a variety of communications networks to connect with a variety of back-end software systems, which can be managed by utilities themselves or their vendor partners.

Integrating them one-to-one is tricky enough. Sharing their data universally -- whether to analyze it, or to actually manage and control the disparate systems connected to the unstructured data engine -- is another level of integration altogether.

That’s the kind of capability that AutoGrid Systems is promising. The Palo Alto, Calif.-based startup unstealthed on Monday, and announced it has raised a $9 million Series B round from investors Foundation Capital, Voyager Capital and Stanford University. Since its 2011 founding, it has also won backing from the U.S. Department of Energy’s ARPA-E program, which awarded it a $2.87 million grant last year, as well as the California Energy Commission with a grant earlier this year

AutoGrid’s core technology is its Energy Data Platform, the cloud-based unstructured data analytics and management engine that takes in data from a multitude of sources and applies real-time predictive algorithms to the flood. CEO Amit Narayan, a former VP of research and development at semiconductor firm Magma Design Automation and founder of Berkeley Design Automation, has been director of Stanford’s smart grid simulation research for the past two-and-a-half years or so, and AutoGrid has also partnered with U.C. Berkeley, Columbia University and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in its work.

The company also revealed its first two named utility customers: Palo Alto’s city utility, which used AutoGrid to roll out a commercial-industrial demand response project covering seven customers with about 26 megawatts of peak load, and the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD), which is using AutoGrid to manage a home energy DR project involving several hundred customers, Narayan said.

Next page: Big Data = Device Control, Business Intelligence, More

Photo of Dramatic Image of Power Distribution Station with Lightning Striking Electricity Towers provided by gui jun peng via Shutterstock