Intraix’s Darrell Zhang shares his thoughts on energy data and visualization

By Jovin Hurry

The recent Techventure 2013 was an excellent occasion for leading members of the venture capital, private equity and angel investor community, industry leaders and experienced incubation managers to network, exchange ideas and develop business plans while indulging in a showcase of technology innovation and enterprise in the region.

Green Business Singapore attended the Clean Energy Session for a Panel Discussion on “Sustainable cloud platforms and services – How are companies building cleaner and greener systems that are environmentally sustainable?” The moderator was Sameer Narula, Managing Partner, August Capital Partners and the panellists were: Clement Goh, Managing Director, Equinix Asia South; Darrell Zhang, Co-founder, Intraix; Deepak Jeevan Kumar, Principal, General Catalyst Partners; Sarah Montgomery, Director, Client Solutions, Asia, Opower; and Timothee Cruse, CTO, Smove.

After the session, we caught up with panellist Darrell Zhang, Co-founder, Intraix, to dig more on the new thinking he wants to see become the new normal.

Darrell, you believe that energy saving starts with better information and that energy data is still not properly mined for valuable information with current systems. What is not working?

From the industry perspective, it seems like IT in the Energy Management Industry hasn’t caught up enough. Relational databases where data are stored in rows and tables are still being commonly used. They are definitely not optimal for use in Big Data Analysis.

With regards to development tools, many vendors of Energy Management Systems are still developing systems on the .NET framework when many renowned web-based systems have been developing using tools such as Python and RubyOnRails which have been proven to be much efficient in data processing and system development.

There is definitely a need for traditional and new players in the market to embrace IT and most importantly, apply the latest technology to a non-sexy industry like the Energy Management and Control System Industry.

You bring up the point of Big Data Analysis. How can Big Data drive the change you want to see?

Raw data are merely numbers without any value.

With regards to data processing, there is no direct value in the display of Energy Consumption Trending Graphs for a household. However, if the total consumption of the household is 50% more compared to the average of the past 30 days, then this is useful information.

Just like driving without a speed dashboard, you are unable to pace yourself and more often than not, exceed the speed limit. This principle works the same for Energy Consumption in that you can’t manage what you can’t see. With better information and visibility into the energy consumption habits, it will effectively form the fundamentals of Energy Management Solutions.

This is what Intraix wishes to achieve and move ahead of the curve – not simply the visualization of data but also the analysis of data that could eventually be used for sculpting behavioural changes as well as fault and abnormality detection amongst many other features that could effectively reduce energy consumption.

Finally, the Panel talked about the need to change both the business model and revenue models. What new models may work in the Singapore market?

I have been seeing a lot of companies switch their business model from one which is traditionally one based on a one-time project cost into performance-based contracts.

Take for example, instead of selling LED Lighting Solutions as a one-time project cost to the building owner, LED companies have embarked on a Share-the-Savings (or rather known as, Energy Performance Contracting) scheme.

Under EPCs, the building owner is only required to only fork out a small percentage (say, 20%) of the project fee while sharing energy savings with the LED Company for a certain number of contracted months.

The value proposition changes to one in which solution providers come in and say – “If you sign this contract with us, we will change all your lighting to LED for only 20% of the initial costs and since you save S$15,000 every month due to this retrofit, I’ll take S$10,000 from you every month for a period of 18 months.”

This change in value proposition from the technology providers has helped to lower the barriers of new technology adoption due to the reduction of initial capital expenses. Consequently, this has lowered the risks and increased the uptake rate of technology adoption.

About Darrell Zhang, Co-founder, Intraix

Darrell Zhang from IntraixDarrell Zhang firmly believes that energy saving starts with better information and that energy data is still not properly mined for valuable information with current systems. Along with a long-time buddy, he started Intraix, a multi-platform energy management system that spans across different market domains of data centers, building and homes through carefully designed web and mobile applications with the aim of reducing energy consumption and better energy management.

Intraix has achieved various validations from the market, clinching a runner-up award at the Canon Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2012 as well as winning the Most Eco-Friendly Startup at TechVenture 2012. The company has also grown from strength to strength with the recent penetration into the Japanese Home Energy Management Solutions (HEMS) market in Tokyo, Kansai and Okinawa.

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