Team Spotlight: Chris Miller

Role at GridCure?

I’m a data scientist. We all wear many hats here, but the main tasks are to solve problems by turning raw data into useful answers by building predictive models. The better we can predict what assets need maintenance, the cheaper and more reliable the grid is. It also means getting asked some questions without standard answers, scratching our heads for a minute, and figuring out how to answer it. It’s honestly a pretty great gig.

Why GridCure?

I love to be a part of building new things, and also have a soft spot for the importance of maintenance and infrastructure. Keeping infrastructure in good condition, as efficiently and cheaply as possible, really does make everyone’s lives better. Building a technology and analytics platform which enables better maintenance for something we all use? Count me in! Some people are passionate about fixing potholes, I’m becoming passionate about pushing electrons. (I’m also pretty passionate about fixed potholes.)

Prior to GridCure, I spent nearly a decade predicting risk in the financial industry. I wanted to see some new problems I hadn’t seen before, and the energy industry offers plenty of interesting and valuable problems to solve right now.

Beyond that, it’s fun. Really! Saying that sounds like a cop-out, but it’s actually true. The projects are interesting, and the people are as well. We push and support each other, at work and away from it. I’ve been lucky to work with a lot of great people over my career, but this group feels uniquely special.

Favorite project at GC?

I’ve had a lot of fun thinking through how to implement a data+model workflow that gives sophisticated results in an easy and efficient way. Building out that workflow has been a way to standardize and share our company’s knowledge across customers, while very strictly respecting their data privacy. It’s led to better models and faster results for customers.

How do you spend your free time?

I describe many of my interests as “standard Colorado”. I dabble in hiking, road and mountain biking, running, skiing, and rock climbing. I don’t do any of those particularly well, but I’m happily competent in all of them. I’ve also been into photography for 15 years – the photo up top is a shot of Mount Ngauruhoe in New Zealand; most people know it as Mt Doom from Lord of the Rings. I’m also involved with local activist groups for better transit and housing policies.

Last question: What’s your favorite movie quote?

I have to pull a quote from The Fountain: “Together we will live forever.” It’s a very bittersweet love story, sorrowful but genuine. The movie has a strain of tension, whether to spend time doing great works for someone versus spending time with them. Time is a finite, precious resource, but the movie opens the door to the infinite. It makes me reflect on how to spend time in the here and now.

Building Culture At GridCure

As GridCure continues to grow, it’s important to stay connected across the company. It’s not always easy to chat around the water-cooler with colleagues in Brazil or Canada about non-work topics. It’s the little things that make picking up the phone easier, to bond so that we all feel like we’re in it together, both as employees and real, actual people. Nothing gets people talking like a good, friendly competition. But, typical American activities like fantasy football won’t be engaging to people around the world who aren’t familiar with the sport. We needed something broader, more universal, sillier.

With that, GridCure launched our First Annual Fat Bear Week tournament bracket challenge.

Katmai National Park, in northern Alaska, USA, hosts a tournament to see which bear has gained the most weight before they hibernate for the winter. Bears are documented by wildlife rangers working at the park. A bear will gain several hundred kilos from the beginning of summer to the beginning of winter.

The only knowledge contestants need is the ability to look at pictures of fat bears and guess who the fattest is.

With bracket names like “Rich’s Chunk of Victory” and “B-ear-ing 747 is the wide-body river winner”, competition was fierce. But in the end, there could be only one winner. For the bears, Holly 435 was the Fat Bear Week Champion.

For GridCure, that was Chris, one of GridCure’s data scientists.

There were whispers of a rigged tournament at GridCure, as Chris also happened to set up the tournament. There was bearly any evidence of foul play, and the consensus was that 435 Holly really was the fattest, just as Chris predicted.

With that, the GridCure Fat Bear week tournament hibernates until next year!

Leveraging Singularity University’s Smart City Accelerator to Accelerate Our Impact

In June 2016, the City of Columbus (Ohio) won the U.S. Department of Transportation’s $40 Million Smart City Challenge and has raised more than $100M in additional funding and sponsorships to continue smart city innovation! As part of their smart city initiatives, Columbus partnered with Singularity University to catalyze the development of even more smart city-centric solutions.

Just last month, GridCure was one of ten startups selected to participate in Singularity University’s Smart City Accelerator. In partnership with American Electric Power (AEP) and NCT Ventures, Singularity University is working to transform the way residents and communities work and live starting in Columbus.

As part of the program, GridCure has been given access to a wealth of resources, including world renowned Singularity University faculty, industry experts, and programs. In addition, we have been working directly with AEP to demonstrate the power of our technology. Our goal is to forge a long-term partnership with AEP and build lasting relationships with the Singularity University and NCT Ventures staff and with the fellow founders in our cohort.

Our next blog post will feature an interview with our main point of contact during the program, AEP’s Director of Enterprise Innovation & Technology, Chris Johnson. He’ll share his vision for the program and his outlook on a smart city future.

We’re super excited to embark on this journey – first stop: Columbus, Ohio.

Unveiling GridCure’s Climate Page

We believe climate change is an important issue to tackle. In our blogpost ‘Five Ways GridCure Can Make a Global Impact’, we highlighted some of the ways GridCure can help fight climate change. We believe working with energy companies directly will have the largest impact on the environment and positively reach the most people; the organizations that are actually running the generation or transmission facilities and power distribution centers make the decisions that are going to have the biggest effect on energy outcomes, and thus have the biggest impact on the environment.

Did you know, if a US investor-owned utility is just 1% more efficient, the carbons savings is roughly equal to nearly 300,000 less cars on the road or more than 200,000 homes’ electricity use for one year? We believe by making utilities smarter, we can reduce the global carbon footprint.

And we’re doing it! Over the past year, we’ve made strides in the cleantech world, winning awards, presenting at conferences, and even winning smart cities investments. In light of our recent successes, we’re proud to showcase some of our capabilities and achievements on our new climate-focused landing page!

5 Reasons Utilities Should Embrace SaaS Technologies

Until recently, when utility teams were faced with a problem, they were often limited to one of two remedies: (1) building their own solutions internally, or (2) outsourcing the problem to a 3rd party consulting group. Long development cycles, extended integration times, and high costs can discourage utilities from finding and implementing new solutions. However, with the introduction of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) technologies, utilities now have the ability to try out-of-the-box solutions ranging from customer service management to accounting products to machine learning analytics.

What is Software-as-a-Service?
Software-as-a-Service, abbreviated as SaaS, is software that is owned and maintained remotely by a provider and ‘leased’ to a user on an either pay-per-use or subscription basis. The product is hosted on a central server, and users can access it using a think client like a web browser.

What are the benefits of using SaaS solutions?
There are many benefits of using SaaS solutions, including shorter implementation times, lower costs, and automatic updates. We’ll discuss five major benefits of using SaaS solutions below:

  1. SasS solutions are quick to implement
    Most SaaS products are ‘plug-and-play’ solutions, meaning users can access the service through a secure online portal and access the product immediately. SaaS solutions are hosted in the cloud, so there’s no on-premise work and no bulky hardware servers to install – getting set up with a SaaS solution can be as simple as signing up for an account online.
  2. SaaS solutions are affordable
    Without the need for time-consuming on-premise work and expensive hardware installations, SaaS solutions are more affordable right out of the box. In addition, SaaS solutions benefit from the economies of scale – a single SaaS code can be deployed across multiple customers; these cost savings are oftentimes reflected in the lower subscription costs. Instead of servicing individual accounts, SaaS providers can continuously update and monitor a single code, decreasing the development resources needed to maintain service to each customer.In addition, SaaS solutions are pay-as-you-go. Customers only pay for the solutions they use and aren’t subjected to exorbitant fees for features they won’t use. Most SaaS solutions can scale with the needs of each customer – up and down – based on their needs.
  3. SaaS customers benefit from a reduced time to benefit
    Quicker implementation times, lower upfront costs, and lower overall fees reduces the overall time to benefit.
  4. SaaS customers benefit from free version upgrades and automatic updates
    Since SaaS solutions are hosted in the cloud, providers can access their services remotely. SaaS customers benefit from the continuous innovation and rollout of new features and solutions, and have the privilege of accessing the most up-to-date version of the software. In addition, upgraded product features that would have incurred custom work fees are oftentimes provided for free.
  5. SaaS solutions have increased uptime and security
    Since the solution is not hosted on premise, the provider is typically responsible for maintaining minimum uptime and security standards outlined in Service Level Agreements. Cloud service providers and SaaS vendors specialize in security and are therefore oftentimes more secure than typical in-house solutions.

What does this mean for utilities?
Instead of wasting years building complex solutions internally or paying exorbitant consulting fees for solutions that already exist, utilities can leverage already existing SaaS products to solve their problems. SaaS solutions are the affordable flexible alternative to internal development work and external consulting services. Utilities can benefit from lower implementation barriers, lower costs, and continuous feature upgrades.

Here at GridCure, we pride ourselves in for being a forerunner in SaaS technology development for utilities. We provide SaaS predictive analytics specifically for electric utilities and other entities who manage their own smart grids. Similar to typical SaaS service providers, we host our solution in the cloud, allowing us to provide our services remotely giving our clients all the benefits of a cloud-hosted SaaS solution. You can learn more about our solutions here.

Paper: The Innovation of Jordan’s Grid

Last year during Power Generation Week, GridCure had the honor of presenting our paper, The Innovation of Jordan’s Grid – The Macroeconomic Impact of a Distributed and Renewable Energy Strategy and the Analytics that Drive It, at the Renewable Energy World Conference.

This paper covers the intricacies and macroeconomic impacts of renewable energy in the country of Jordan. Not commonly on the international stage, Jordan is unique in the pressures, stakeholders, and benefits that are driving a distributed energy transformation. By diversifying its resources and crafting data-driven strategies, Jordan is evolving into a much more global actor in terms of setting an example of energy innovation and its impact at a national-level.

Download this paper now to learn more about Jordan’s distributed energy strategy, including specific examples from its photovoltaic and concentrated solar, wind, storage, and even electric vehicle projects.

Download The Innovation of Jordan’s Grid – The Macroeconomic Impact of a Distributed and Renewable Energy Strategy and the Analytics that Drive It

[contact-form-7 404 "Not Found"]

Founder Honored by UBC

GridCure’s founder, Tagg Jefferson, was honoured (with the extra ‘u’ for Canadian spelling!) last week at the University of British Columbia (UBC) Applied Science Celebration with the Dean’s Medal of Distinction.

Awarded annually, the Medal recognizes individuals who have brought high honour to the faculty and/or who have made longstanding or significant contributions. Tagg was recognized more specifically for his contributions to the fundraising and design process of the UBC Engineering Student Centre, as well as his successes in leading the GridCure team over the past few years.  

“It was very exciting and intimidating”, said Tagg, when asked about the ceremony itself. “I was sitting between one reward recipient who had 17 honorary degrees, and another who has spent their retirement establishing schools, hospitals, and libraries all over Pakistan to better support the education of young girls and women in the region. Incredible to be recognized alongside such an accomplished set of alumni.”

The award ceremony represented a metaphorical return ‘home’ for GridCure: the company was first conceptualized during Tagg’s work in Vancouver when he was part of the BC Hydro smart metering project.

Photo Credit (Martin Dee)

Solving Smart Grid ‘Blinks’ in the Blink of an Eye

We understand Co-ops. We understand that everyone counts on you, as an operator of the network, to keep the lights on. With the weight of these expectations on your shoulders, we understand the pain you feel when things stop working. Like that undeniable panic when a transformer fails. Or like that dull – yet daily – irritation of experiencing blinks on your network.

When your smart meters stop responding, you’re left wondering where the problem lives and what the underlying issues could be. We’ve heard our friends express a similar frustration with identifying and understanding the blinks on their network. “We estimate we waste – I don’t know  how many – hours per month trying to decipher all the blinks on our network – that includes analysts trying to correlate specific events with blinks in network communication, operations managers trying to forecast maintenance schedules and resource allocation around blink events, and even customer service representatives trying to make sense of – and alleviate – customers’ concerns during outage events. We would be particularly interested in a module that could automate these types of queries and display the results in an interface anyone could appreciate and understand – from Chris in Engineering to Barb in Client Services.”  

We love hearing this type of feedback from the industry because it sets a clear path for us to develop a new analytical module that solves a specific pain point. Because what’s better than us understanding your blinks? Imagine if we could give you the tools to visualize all the blinks on your network or give you the ability to diagnose issues faster with sophisticated machine learning techniques…

Introducing: GridCure’s Blink Module

Using data that you likely already have on hand, we are able to display your network blinks on a map-interface, report and sort your blink information, provide summary statistics of blink patterns on your network, and even link blinks to specific events recorded on your SCADA and OMS system. And we do this all in a simple-to-use online app.

Blink Monitor Overview: On this page, Critical Asset Cards highlight your network’s most problematic assets. You can easily sort and filter the data on this page based on several different parameters, e.g. date range, meter number, location, and cause codes, which automagically populates a table of high-level asset information.

Blink Monitor Map View: Using these same filtering parameters, you can even display each blink on a map interface. Each meter that has experienced a blink event shows up on the map as a pin. You can learn more information about the blink event by clicking on each pin.

Meter Number Details: You can easily view all the historical information for a particular meter on the Meter Details page. Our statistical analytics effortlessly associates SCADA or OMS events with blinks.

Cause Details: You can drill down even further and view all the data about a particular event on the Cause Details page. This page includes asset information, SCADA data, and detailed comments about the causes each blink event, as well as any corrective actions that may have been taken.
When your smart meters stop communicating with you, you should start communicating with us. We’d happily demonstrate how solving blinks in your network data can be greatly simplified with our machine learning techniques and sexy dashboards.

Blink Data as a Window into Network Health

Because smart meters are attached to homes and businesses, the most obvious usage of the data that they collect is understanding customer power usage trends. But understanding customer usage is far from the only way to use smart meter readings. With the proper analysis, smart meter readings can yield insights into the performance of the electrical grid as a whole.

In determining network health, it is as important to analyze when smart meters are not responding as it is to analyze their actual signal. Lack of response from a group of meters over a period of hours or days could indicate an outage event. It’s common for utility companies to have outage management systems that keep track of outages both through smart meter data and reported outage information. However, the information that can be gathered about network performance does not stop with recording simple outage information. Careful analysis of smart meter data can yield more subtle information about problems on a power network.

To understand how smart meters interact with the grid as a whole, it’s necessary to understand how they transmit their readings to the utility. A couple of solutions have been employed to transmit smart meter data to the utility for analysis. One is to use wireless technology or existing cellular networks to enable the meters to communicate with each other as well as with central locations. Another method is to use existing power cable infrastructure to carry information from the smart meters using a system referred to as a power line communication (PLC) system. By modulating the existing carrier signal, sent along existing power lines it is possible communicate information in both directions from the smart meters to a central location. In locations where a PLC is in use the signals transmitted to and from the smart meters are interacting with the grid as a whole and there is the potential to use those signals to understand grid health.

Power line communication systems have been used to transmit data over power lines for over a century. The first patent suggesting a power line communication system was filed in 1897.1 In Japan a PLC system was implemented in the 1920’s and was used to carry voice communication along power lines.2 More recently, trials have been done in several countries, testing the use of of power line communication systems for carrying broadband internet.

Because of their integration with power line systems, PLC communication systems are a natural choice for transmission of smart meter data. However as power lines were not designed for transmitting information, there are challenges associated with using them to transmit information. Transmission channel characteristics can vary widely due to changes in power load along the line which can lead to signal attenuation or distortion. In the context of smart meter data, noise within the system or power line disruptions can cause interruptions in smart meter data transmissions. These interruptions, called blinks, result in the loss of some smart meter information, but they also provide information about disruptions along the power system.

Although interaction of communication systems with the power transmitted along the line can be problematic, it also yields some intrinsic advantages in that it can provide insight into the health of the smart grid. Particularly, if communication from a certain set of smart meters is interrupted it can provide a clue as to mechanical problems along the network, even if those problems haven’t become severe enough to cause an outage. For instance, if all meters downstream of a particular transformer experience a blink, it could be an indication that there is a problem with the transformer. Likewise, if all meters downstream of a certain line segment experience a blink, it could indicate that something such as a tree limb is interfering with the line. Conversely, if a blink occurs in an isolated meter, it’s reasonable to guess that the problem occurred with an individual meter. In more complicated cases in which it’s not clear that a set of blinks originate from a certain piece of equipment, machine learning can be useful in determining the cause of the event.

In some cases the timing of blinks in integral in determining a cause. Differences in the number of meters that experience a blink may be due to small differences in when the meters record a reading. If the number meters blinking changes during an event the change in blink patterns may also give important clues as to the source of a problem. Identifying equipment failures that have caused similar blink patterns can be useful in identifying the possible cause of a set of blinks.

GridCure’s blink module is built to quickly identify which piece of equipment and section of line is most likely to be responsible for a set of blinks. It also keeps track of patterns in blink evolution that might not be completely obvious and identifies previous causes of similar blink events. Using subtle information in smart meter data, GridCure’s blink module may be able to point to network problems before they cause an outage event.

1 Marumo, N. Simultaneous transmission and reception in radio telephony. Proc. Inst. Radio Eng. 1920, 8, 199–219.

2. Routin, J.; Brown, C.E.L. Power Line Signalling Electricity Meters. British Patent 24833, 1897.

Introducing the GridCure Platform

GridCure is a smart grid analytics platform for Cooperatively Owned Utilities. The GridCure platform organizes smart grid utility data, integrates disparate data streams, and provides grid health analytics for engineers, IT managers, and financial decision makers.   

We’re building this platform because we think Co-ops need modular software tools that solve grid specific challenges. We think pricing can be simple, with flexible contracts, so we’re focused on building a model that allows co-ops to purchase what they need, when they need it, without long term contracts.

We launched a beta version of the platform at Start ETS, and since then our team has been busy onboarding users to the system, and helping them turn smart grid data into actionable analytics.

How it Works

Create a free account.

Accounts give you free access to the platform, the ability to chat directly with GridCure’s team of engineers and data scientists, access to the GridCure module directory, and the ability to view module demos. You can sign up for a free account here.

Learn about potential predictive analytics solutions for your utility.

We like to start with a deep understanding of your grid, and the challenges you’re currently working on. Complete a free data audit and we’ll build your utility a custom predictive analytics opportunity report that highlights potential module solutions you can deploy.

Use the GridCure Module Directory to select modules, or work with GridCure Labs to build custom solutions.

Learn more about the modules we’re working on in the GridCure Module Directory, or work with GridCure Labs to build custom modules. Pricing is based per module, so you’ll only pay for what you need.

Easily upload data, or integrate existing systems.

We’ve built simple data upload tools that allow you to securely transmit your utility data to GridCure for analysis.

Work with GridCure to build and deploy modules on the GridCure platform.

Beautifully designed for desktop, tablet, 
and mobile
. Launch solutions in as little as 2-4 weeks, 
not 2-4 months.
 Flexible support options for organizations and teams of any size. All with no new servers, and no new sensors.

Sign up for today for a free account, and see how GridCure can help your utility.

Sign Up for a Free Demo