Open Energi, a UK company whose sensors on fridges, heaters and pumps enable those devices to use electricity more efficiently, is turning to Hadoop data storage to get its business to

the next level.

David Hill, business development director at Open Energi, said the deal with Hadoop distributor Hortonworks will help as the company moves beyond the proof of concept work it has been doing with customers such as Sainsbury’s and United Utilities.

It has chosen the Hortonworks Data Platform (HDP) to store data from its sensors, which allow energy consumption to be managed in real-time based on immediate demand. Open Energi has been using relational database technology of its own devising so far, said Hill. It was founded in 1999 as Responsive Load, but has been known as Open Energi since October 2012.

Its patented “dynamic demand” technology aggregates consumption across customers’ sites to provide an equivalent to a power station. Instead of adjusting supply up or down, it adjusts demand to meet supply.

“As an early stage internet of things company, we have had to build a lot from scratch. The work we will be doing with Hortonworks will take us beyond that. We’ve proved we can sell capacity into an electricity market that has been traditionally bought from power stations,” said Hill.

According to Hill, Open Energi is building a “virtual power plant”, aggregating flexibility in consumer electricity demand to provide cheap capacity to make electricity systems work more effectively.

“We provide capacity on the demand side by tapping into appliances and changing their consumption without having an impact on their primary purpose. If it pumps, cools or heats, you can change its consumption without impact for a short period of time,” said Hill.

He gives the example of United Utilities, where if his company gets a signal from the National Grid that there is a shortage of power then they can adjust consumption so as to deal with that on behalf of the customer.

“In turn, our customers can generate revenue and decarbonise the electricity market, becoming active participants in the electricity system,” said Hill.

Due to this, Sainsbury’s, as an example, can receive a payment from National Grid via Open Energi for adjusting its electricity consumption across a number of fridges.

Open Energi currently has 3,000 electricity consuming devices and meters around the country under its purview on 300 sites with 20 customers.

Using HDP, the company said it will collect, store and analyse sensor data containing information about real-time electricity consumption and control processes more efficiently and at a far greater scale than previously possible.

“We can now tap into technologies that were developed in the consumer internet, as with Hadoop at Yahoo, and make sure we have a much more scalable data intrastructure as we grow. We don’t have crazy amounts of data at the moment, but our aspirations are to have millions of devices – not a few thousand.

“As a startup company, you don’t always know what you will want to do with the data, so you want flexibility in respect of how you mine the data,” said Hill.

The company hopes HDP will provide a single view of all the appliance information to enable customers to react swiftly to changing conditions on the grid, as well as identify ways to generate extra revenue from existing devices, maximise energy savings and spot opportunities to reduce CO2 emissions.

Read more about Hadoop in the internet of things