Jun 16, 2021

5 Mins With ... Pilgrim Beart at DevicePilot

DevicePilot
SmartMeters
Utilities
software
Dominic Ellis
5 min
Pilgrim Beart, Cofounder and CEO of DevicePilot, explains the benefits of business process automation and its role in the transition to renewables

Tell us about DevicePilot, how long you've been in business and objectives?

We started DevicePilot in 2015 to solve a common problem with connected devices that I had experienced during my time at AlertMe and my cofounders had already solved in the telco world. Essentially, there is a universal truth in connected devices that once you hit more than a thousand or so devices in the wild, it becomes almost impossible for a human brain and spreadsheets to monitor and manage them effectively. You need a tool for that, which is where DevicePilot fits in.

As the years have gone by, we have become more and more focussed on the energy sector, as there are a huge number of use cases for connected devices emerging. In the home, everything from your energy meter to your radiators, water boilers, cars and car chargers may all be connected these days. For industry there are heat pumps, sources of energy such as solar panels and wind turbines and a huge number of other processes that have come to rely on the internet. So, this is where we believe Service Monitoring is needed the most.

What are the key developments in Service Monitoring Platforms for Connected Devices with utility companies?

A really important aspect of our service is automation, specifically business process automation. Take Smart Meter service providers as an example. In the early days when they have a few hundred devices in the wild, it is relatively easy for spreadsheets and human brainpower to keep on top of installation and day-to-day operations. When one Smart Meter loses connectivity then discovering that, triaging it and finding a solution can all be done manually. However, once they have more than a few thousand Smart Meters to manage, this quickly becomes overwhelming as trouble tickets go from occasional clicks on a Geiger meter to a growing roar of incidents that need resolving.

There are many ways in which a Smart Meter can fail to deliver the service that the customer needs, ranging from installation and software problems, to configuration and network problems. Automation can be used to deal with the majority of issues by creating rules. An example might be 'If a Smart Meter is sending back data at the wrong rate, send a message to reconfigure it, as well as raising a ticket so that the operations and engineering teams can track it'. Dealing with perhaps 80% of problems in this way lets the team spend their precious time focusing on less common problems, rather than just being swamped by unnecessary alerts.

Explain how you were among the pioneers of 'Smart Metering' and what are the key challenges now?

In 2006 I founded AlertMe, which was one of the early players in the smart home energy space. Eventually we were bought by British Gas (in 2015) and what was AlertMe now forms the basis of the HiveTM Smart Home platform. During that period, the UK went from Smart Meters being something that was talked about, to huge numbers being rolled out across the country. 

Right now, is a really exciting time for Smart Meters as they finally have a slew of other smart energy products also hitting homes, which Smart Meters can help to manage. Couple this with a shift towards renewable energy which will rely on Smart Meters to monitor supply and demand to optimise tariffs, and it really is the Smart Meter’s chance to shine. But this is only half of the story – the really difficult part is ensuring that Smart Meters actually work, which is where Service Monitoring enters the picture. A Smart Meter that isn’t behaving as it should turns out to be not so smart after all.

What role will DevicePilot play in the transition to renewables?

We will play an indirect, but crucial role. Again, let’s look at Smart Meters as the example, as they are the great enabler of so many other energy products. The wind might be blowing very hard in the middle of the night, meaning there is a surplus of off-peak renewable energy. A Smart Meter might then tell a boiler to heat water that can then be stored for use later in the day, delivering cheaper hot water to the customer. However, this all falls apart if the Smart Meter or the connected boiler are offline or misconfigured, which can happen for myriad reasons.

The service quality is the biggest blocker to the success of connected devices and is something we see falling short time and time again. Without these products all working at the right time, we will never be able to harness the power of renewable energy properly, as renewable energy requires demand to be controllable. DevicePilot really helps with this challenge as we provide a single-pane-of-glass view of entire fleets of devices, enabling a far better, more proactive approach to service quality.

What is the one bit of advice you'd give companies to improve their service delivery?

Discover and fix your problems as early as possible. Too often service providers forget what they actually are, and service gets swept under the carpet whilst product development and rollout swallow resources. But they quickly become unstuck as any small problems that begin to emerge in the early days of rollout will become amplified as they scale, by which stage it is often very difficult to fix as the issue is so widespread. This often leads to damaged reputation, customer churn and teams spending their time fire-fighting instead of creating processes to enable rapid growth.

Pilgrim Beart is Cofounder and CEO of DevicePilot

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Jul 27, 2021

Scala Data Centers sets 2033 renewables goal

datacenters
Energy
Sustainability
Renewables
Dominic Ellis
3 min
Scala Data Centers is pledging to provide its Brazil customers with 100% renewable energy by 2033 - as renewables activity steps up in Latin America

Scala Data Centers is pledging to provide its Brazil customers with 100% renewable energy by 2033.

The strategic goal follows the signing of a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with ENGIE Brasil Energia, the Brazilian's largest private energy producer. The contract guarantees the supply of more than 1,600 GWh of clean energy in 12 years, a volume sufficient to supply, for one year, a city of around 700,000 people.

Scala Data Centers is a sustainable hyperscale data center platform, founded by DigitalBridge.

Marcos Peigo, co-founder and CEO of Scala, said the agreement with ENGIE reinforces the company's non-negotiable commitment to base its operational growth on fully sustainable premises. "We focus on strategic partnerships that can scale and maintain our operation with the lowest possible environmental impact, without giving up the high quality and competitiveness that are recognised differentials of our company", the executive said.

Eduardo Sattamini, CEO of ENGIE Brasil Energia, added that offering solutions to decarbonise its customers' operations is in line with ENGIE's purpose of acting to accelerate the energy transition towards a carbon neutral society. "Our partnership with Scala demonstrates the importance of sustainability as an added value for business prosperity, in harmony with the future of people and the planet" he said.

Data from the International Energy Agency (IEA) state that, in the last five years, 50% of the PPAs contracted around the world came from leading global technology companies.

Since 2007, Google has been using renewable energy and managed, 10 years later, to zero its global carbon emissions. More recently, Amazon has committed to zero carbon emissions by 2040 and to use 100% renewable energy by 2030. Oracle has expanded its commitment to sustainability, promising to leverage its global operations using 100% renewable energy until 2025.

Peigo hopes that its "leading role" can inspire other Latin American companies to follow the same path.

In regards to the UN’s 7th Sustainable Development Goal (Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all), Brazil’s energy policies have been very effective in meeting world’s most urgent energy challenges, according to Climate Scorecard.

Firstly, access to electricity across the country is almost universal and the electricity sector is the largest in South America. The power sector in Brazil serves more than 50 million customers, granting 97% of the country’s households’ reliable electricity.

Renewables compose almost 45% of Brazil’s primary energy demand, making it one of the least carbon-intensive globally, and its national grid is made up of almost 80% from renewable sources. A large part of its renewable resources come from biofuels and hydro.

 


Atlas Renewable Energy, along with Unipar, a leader in chlorine, chlorides, and PVC in South America, recently signed a large-scale solar energy PPA in Brazil. The clean solar energy supply will be generated through Atlas Renewable Energy's Lar do Sol – Casablanca II photovoltaic plant in Pirapora, State of Minas Gerais.

"The adoption of renewables is becoming a staple of good corporate responsibility and we at Atlas offer a unique opportunity for large energy consumers to clean their energy matrix and at the same time be sponsors of the social and environmental programs we develop to uplift the communities where we operate," said Luis Pita, General Manager of Atlas Renewable Energy for Brazil. 

Mauricio Russomanno, CEO at Unipar, added that the total amount of generated energy destined to Unipar will be enough to produce chlorine for water treatment to over 60 million people.

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