POWERPOD: LEVEL UP

 In Powerpod, Updates

The energy industry has seen major shifts over the years: climate change has given rise to new incentives for fossil fuel alternatives while increasing market liberalization has paved the way for greater competition and innovation. The days of single, monolithic electric utilities are over and the nature of energy itself is changing—from a pure, physical good to something that has immense value in both the commodity sector and data economy. It is in keeping with these evolutions that we have similarly refashioned our PowerPod—from a physical, Internet-of-Things (IoT) device to a complete architecture comprising hardware and software.

The original PowerPod: This little black box packs a punch

The first PowerPod we developed was an industrial router capable of data transmission through LAN, 3G/4G, and WiFi, and supported a host of communication protocols (TCP/IP, SMTP, POP3, etc). It featured an embedded Linux OS to run all our scripts to ensure data stability and security. We then developed the other IoT functions on top of just data conduit needs, building in the ability to simultaneously support up to four daisy-chained sensors, with real-time device status monitoring. New system configuration of the PowerPod and additional sensors can be done through the CMS, while remote device access and management is carried out via HTTPS commands. We developed all this in time for the Synergy Alpha test which started in October 2018—a notable achievement considering we started from scratch just six months before.

We designed and built the first PowerPods as a means of capturing and transmitting energy data from consumers and producers through their existing smart meters. Real-time energy data is crucial for operationalising Synergy, our peer-to-peer electricity trading platform, which performs trades every 30 minutes on each matched prosumer-consumer pair. At that stage, PowerPod was simply an IoT gateway for reading and relaying real-time energy data to our Central Management System (CMS), allowing our matching algorithm to match and process settlement.

High-level overview showing the communication between the software and hardware components of PowerPod, with the hardware component (grey portion) being capable of switching out with external hardware devices

But we wanted to push the PowerPod’s limits. As we built, tested, and deployed the PowerPod, it became apparent to us that we could deliver greater value to the consumer if we built a holistic database architecture, fronted by a well-designed UX, that was more hardware agnostic. To that end, we will work more on the development of a back-end framework that is compatible not only with PowerPod but other hardware devices. We’ve started testing smart metering devices from two companies in Singapore and Malaysia and have agreed to work on expanding this framework together. This allows us to lower material costs and become hardware agnostic while delivering more functionality on what we now dub as a new PowerPod data architecture. With potentially cheaper, faster hardware working on our architecture, we can look at expanding the use cases of both PowerPod and Synergy to applications such as demand response, load disaggregation, and even dynamic energy pricing.

The original hardware that is our little black box will remain in our arsenal and continue to be enhanced; it will be deployed where multi-sensory energy inputs are required. PowerPod has thus been expanded in its definition and will serve as the unifying layer in a new data architecture that will allow Electrify to be, eventually, hardware agnostic. This will greatly expand the opportunities for collaboration and expansion into different markets and opportunities.

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