Dubuque, IBM study ways to reduce energy use

Dubuque, Iowa, has teamed up with IBM on a project to better understand energy use and habits in the city.

IBM and Dubuque have launched the Smarter Energy Cloud, which allows residents of the city to access information about their energy usage and habits and share best practices through an electricity portal over a six-month period. The portal is available to volunteer households in Dubuque.

This application is part of the Smarter Electricity Pilot Study in which data will be collected and analyzed over the next several months, providing these volunteer households with information, insights and actionable intelligence to potentially lower their energy costs, IBM and Dubuque officials said. Dubuque is the first city in Iowa where 1,000 smart electricity meters have been installed at volunteer households.

The study’s goal is to demonstrate how informed and engaged citizens can help themselves by saving money and conserving energy, making their community more sustainable, said Dubuque Mayor Roy Buol.

“People understand that real-time information can be used to make decisions on how they use energy in their homes,” Buol said, describing the eagerness of residents to volunteer for the study.


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Dubuque worked with IBM in 2010 on a similar study performed using smart water meters. The Smarter Water Pilot Study resulted in a 6.6 percent reduction in water consumption for households in the program that had access to information provided by a smart water meter system.

The city is now expanding its portfolio of offerings to its residents. The electricity study is a collaboration of IBM, the city of Dubuque, Alliant Energy - Interstate Power and Light, and the Iowa Office of Energy Independence. The study began in July and will run through November. Initial results are expected to be available by December.

Alliant Energy pulls data from all the meters and delivers a “big, flat file,” that is consumed by the IBM cloud infrastructure, said Miland Naphade, program director of IBM’s Smarter City Services Research division.

The smarter electricity meter system monitors energy consumption every 15 minutes and collects and securely communicates anonymous data to the IBM Research Cloud, located in Lexington, Ky. Analytic software is then applied to derive all kinds of actionable intelligence and insights to the consumer via the electricity portal, Naphade said.

Volunteers can only view their own consumption habits, while city management is provided with aggregate data.

IBM has built the IBM Smarter City Sustainability Model, a cloud-delivered asset that provides the city with an integrated view of its water and energy management. This model provides a combination of deep analytics to generate personalized insights, social computing to let volunteers collaborate, and actionable intelligence that lets residents interested in changing consumption patterns understand the impact of their actions.

The study also gives IBM a chance to experiment with how cloud computing can be applied to lower infrastructure, storage and software costs, Naphade said. Cloud computing is an Internet-based computing where shared resources, software and information are provided to computers and other devices on demand.

Dubuque’s mayor is looking forward to the day when results from the studies can be applied to resident households and businesses across the city to meet the city’s “Sustainable Dubuque” vision.

Using smarter technologies to save resources and money “is the future in metropolitan areas,” Buol said.





About the Author

Rutrell Yasin is is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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