Bert Taube and Robert Brammer on big data | Versant Corporation

The New Economy interviews Bert Taube, Director of Energy and Smart Grid Solutions, and Dr Robert Brammer, Board Member, from Versant Corporation, on the big data in energy

  • Monday, January 7th, 2013

Smart grids are a vital element of the future energy landscape. We hear a lot about the technology and infrastructure developments, but the big challenge for system operators is ‘big data’: how to make use of the information gathered. Bert Taube and Dr Robert Brammer discuss the different factors at play, and Versant Corporation‘s extensive experience in the power industry and excellent foundations for targeting advanced developments.

The New Economy: Robert, tell us why smart grids are so important.

Dr. Robert Brammer: Well the notion of a smart grid is an electric power grid with a much higher utilisation of advanced information technology to get more flexibility and effective use of electricity. So the two major advantages in this concept. One is that electric power will be delivered much more cost effectively that the current power grid. And the second is the environmental impact will be significantly reduced, far less carbon emissions, far less pollution caused by the use of fossil fuels as a result of greater efficiency.

The New Economy: Bert, tell us a little bit about Versant, your position in the market, and how you relate to big data?

Bert Taube: Versant has been in big data ever since it’s inception. About twenty five years ago the company started it’s success story. It has supplied big data solutions into different articles of power and energy that we’re talking about today. But also to related articles such as telecom, financial services, transportation. The articles where you can find network infrastructures, that is where the Versant technology works very well.

Dr. Robert Brammer: We are in a very competitive industry. So we constantly bench mark ourselves for competitive advantage and so we have designed our systems so that they perform at a very high level on much less expensive hardware than many of our competitors use. We also have a very efficient way of storing information so we can store the same volume of information in a much smaller storage array. So the advantage to the customer is our data is processed much more quickly and much less expensively than the competition.

The New Economy: So in terms of big data, can you give an example of a specific problem in the energy industry that smart grids will solve?

Dr. Robert Brammer: There are a couple of examples that I think are particularly important. One is with the operation of the grid itself, and a large system operator will need to keep track of the overall health and status of the power grid in any given region. So that means understanding the status of thousands of generators, hundreds of thousands of miles of transmittance lines, a number of substations that distribute the energy to the ultimate consumer. So with the introduction of smart grid technology there will be many more sensors placed out around the grid providing information to provide situational awareness or the status and health of the power grid. On the other hand, at the consumer level there are the introduction of smart meters and these measure the usage of electricity in the home and report back often in real time to the utilities so that they can monitor the usage and avoid periods of congestion or possibly the risk of a black out.

The New Economy: Any why are smart grids a big data challenge?

Bert Taube: They are because of a variety of reasons. The volume of data that we will have to face when we install syncophases in the grid would be terabytes and ultimately pedabytes of data. So we talk about large volumes. The variety of data is also essential because you have a number of different sensors in the grid, it’s not just the syncophases and even those already measure fifteen different types of units in milliseconds. Velocity, that means you have to process data fast. You have to acquire it fast, you have to process it fast. So that operators can actually take decisions in real time. On top of that you have validity. Validity means you have a certain shelf life of data, so in other words you do not want to store that data forever, necessarily. You want to keep it at it’s cost that it needs to have in order to perform to satisfaction. And Veracity really means that the accuracy of the data is to be accordingly, otherwise you will not get the final result that you would like to know. But at the same time it costs you money to get the accuracy, so you have to know what time window is right and at what cost you want to invest in order to make this all happen.

The New Economy: So what projects are you working on at the moment?

Bert Taube: Versant, as I pointed out before, has been in big data for a number of years. So there are a variety of technology solutions that can be provided. A good example is Versant’s newest JPA, the new version JPA is faster, it is standard spaced, it already has sevety-five percent of what you really need to do a big data management analytics solution. It is also capable of making midstream information model changes without downtime to utilities, which is really critical, because utilities cannot afford this. As you may have heard, Versant has joined the Electric Power Research institute, which runs the planets largest smart grid program in a collaborative manor. We have several projects that we are doing with them around inter operability. Another project that we’re doing with APRI is about white area situational awareness. So we are building content around managing and analysing data that are coming from syncophases. I would like to refer also to a number of energy power projects that Versant has actually done in the past. So it didn’t have to come to smart grids to talk about power and energy for Versant. So we had a number of projects with the french independent system operator, one of the largest in the world. It was about a day ahead forecasting, about simulating the steady state behaviour of the grid, and also about calculating metrics that tell you if the grid is safe. Another interesting project is around connectivity with a building automation provider called Echelon. Echelon deployed more than three hundred thousand solutions worldwide with Versant’s big data management which really creates the necessary network configuration model that these buildings need in order to have inter-operability and safe energy ultimately and operating costs.

Dr. Robert Brammer: I think what Bert has just talked about is really the basis for our business strategy for the smart grid. Because we’ve been engaged in different parts of the world. We’ve got different perspectives on how the current electric power industry operates and this gives us an excellent foundation in terms of targeting advanced developments going forward. So we’ve been with the power industry in the past, we’re operating with them today, and we’ll continue to grow with them in the future.

The New Economy: Bert Taub, Dr. Robert Brammer, Thank You

Dr. Robert Brammer: No thank you. We appreciate the opportunity.
Bert Taube: Thank you very much