Through its model of collaborative disruption and landmark partnerships with companies such as Berkshire Hathaway Energy Subsidiaries, Uptake plans to put the energy industry’s data to profitable use.
Few industries are as diverse as energy. While certain segments may consistently be on the cutting edge and dealing with razor-thin margins, others can be enormously profitable, but hampered by antiquated mindsets, politics or regulation. Progress is hard to come by in an industry with so many competing stakeholders and watchdogs.
But as varied as the energy landscape can be, all of its segments share one common trait: data—and the industry is producing tons of it. The commoditization of telematics hardware and cloud connectivity, the Internet of Things, has seen nearly every piece of equipment outfitted with sensors and nearly every kilowatt monitored and measured. From solar fields to smart grids, the industry is tracking itself from production to consumption.
The future of the energy industry is buried in this data. Through the power of predictive analytics, it could harness billions of dollars worth of new efficiencies in in operations and capital management, regardless of the shifting social and political sands. But in this data also lies the challenge. There’s a deluge of information to be gathered, sliced and diced. The question is, how do these analyses become actionable predictions that lead to real improvements in the industry’s bottom line?
Uptake, a Chicago-based data analytics company, is taking on the data challenge. Through its business model of “collaborative disruption,” it’s working together with the most iconic companies in the energy industry to put data to profitable use. Rather than developing a software platform as a third-party vendor to sell in the sector, it’s instead forging partnerships to drive change from within the industry itself. Its joint venture with Berkshire Hathaway Energy Subsidiaries (BHE) is a recent example.
“The energy industry has just begun to make use of all the data it produces, and it won’t be long before we’re seeing millions, if not billions of dollars saved,” said Sonny Garg, solutions and development lead, energy, for Uptake. “Rather than a one-size-fits-all solution, we are partnering with companies such as Berkshire Hathaway Energy to provide a platform for predictive analytics that solves challenges unique to their slice of the energy sector.”
Uptake and BHE have been working together for nearly a year, designing and developing a software platform called Uptake Wind that will provide actionable predictions for its wind farm fleets. The goal is to increase productivity, reliability and safety, and to optimize operations and maintenance. Uptake is deploying the software throughout the wind fleets of both MidAmerican Energy Company and BHE Renewables, which account for approximately 5 GW of capacity.
Examples of how data can be used to increase efficiency and drive revenue for the energy industry can be powerful. Take the wind sector for example: Sensors on a wind turbine can provide data that enables operators to know when a piece of equipment could fail or need maintenance. Recommended actions to take for resolution are made through the platform, helping to resolve the issue before it becomes a bigger, more costly problem.
Part of Uptake’s vision for what it’s calling Uptake Wind is to gather weather information, such as wind speed, that operators can utilize to adjust turbines to spin at rates that don’t overwhelm their hardware, maximizing their lifecycle. Uptake Wind can be used to help determine the best way to lay out turbines across a farm, maximizing their wind utilization. Companies will be able to use Uptake to determine when the best time is to sell their energy on the market. The examples are numerous in wind alone—when data analytics becomes prevalent across the entire energy industry, its impact could be staggering.
“Data analytics has such a huge and important role to play in the future of energy. Asset management, condition monitoring, logistics, operations, economics—they can all be improved by utilizing the data that is already being produced to find patterns and make predictions that save time and money,” Garg said.
The Uptake platform gathers both historical and real-time data, and then combines it to be analyzed and provide actionable predictions to its users. Results are then fed back into the software platform to further refine and validate its accuracy. This information includes condition monitoring, workflows, logistics, fleet management and other streams, such as weather and event-specific data.
“To be successful in energy, you really have to understand the playing field. It’s a complex network of producers, providers, manufacturers and regulators,” Garg explained. “To achieve the large-scale transformation we’re after, Uptake has to embed itself into the industry to identify very clear challenges for each of those stakeholders and provide unique solutions that can be trusted and verified.”
POWER IN PARTNERSHIPS
With the collaborative disruption model, partnerships give Uptake unprecedented access to enormous amounts of historical data that only companies with long histories in the industry can provide. BHE is co-developing Uptake Wind with the company, for example, giving it access to years of information that will inform the software platform’s predictions. The wind platform will then be offered to the rest of the sector.
With all its ambition, Uptake is still a young company. Its partnership with BHE is just the beginning of its move into the energy industry, which is only beginning to validate the power of predictive analytics.
“In the short-term, it’s about awareness and proving out the product,” Garg explained. “Lots of companies in energy know that the power of data will bolster their bottom line, so we’re moving the needle from ‘how’ to ‘when.’ In the long-term, it’s about whole-scale transformation that will dramatically improve the ways that mankind produces and consumes energy.”
Uptake was founded in Chicago by Brad Keywell and Eric Lefkofsky, a pair of entrepreneurs who also founded Groupon, Echo Global Logistics, Mediaocean and their venture capital fund Lightbank. In just two short years, the company has grown to more than 700 employees and was recently valued at $2 billion.
Uptake | http://www.uptake.com