Save energy with Veutility’s “appliance DNA”

Veutility is a new addition to the crowded energy management market. The company’s main selling point is that it uses data from a single smart meter to calculate a signature for each appliance drawing electricity. Veutility calls this signature “appliance DNA”. This signature is then used to track that appliance’s energy consumption via a web interface.

Most energy management systems cannot measure the consumption of an individual appliance without using a smart-plug (an intelligent outlet that can measure power usage) for each device. Building management systems often deploy a large number of sensors attached to circuits in the building to pinpoint consumption more accurately.

Veutility recently won the “Ireland’s Innovator” award at the Globe Forum‘s Pitch competition. Veutility CEO, Antonio Ruzzelli, is a researcher at University College Dublin’s Clarity centre, working on sensor technologies. The algorithms used to identify individual appliances and calculate “appliance DNA”, were developed there.

Veutility’s system works with any off-the-shelf smart meter, and only one meter is required per building or business. It also does not require any training (some energy management systems require appliances to be switched on and off to train the system). Another feature it offers is benchmarking, which allows facility managers to compare their consumption to that of similar businesses, e.g. compare the energy consumption of several hotels in a chain.

Veutility targets businesses with large electricity bills. It is currently running a series of pilots in Dublin with hotels, banks, restaurants and a pharmaceutical company. In hotels, the pilots are already showing results of 20-40 percent reductions in consumption. Ruzzelli gave an example from a pilot where a new chef in a hotel was not told to turn off an extra fan in a restaurant kitchen. That single appliance costs thousands of euros a month to run and was quickly identified by Veutility’s system as a major energy consumer.

As the system matures, Ruzzelli hopes to build up a database of appliance DNA profiles that can be used to provide recommendations to facility managers such as suggestions for more energy-efficient equipment. Veutility will also track how the signatures of appliances change over time, since they get less efficient as they age. Veutility’s business model is based on subscriptions, whose costs will vary depending on the size of the customer.

Competitors include startups like AlertMe, TED, Powersavvy and Ecofactor. None of these systems currently track energy consumption at the appliance level. However, AlertMe has had an appliance disaggregation system in development for some time and has filed some patents on certain aspects of the technology. It is being tested by a sample of customers and should be available to all AlertMe users sometime in 2011.

AlertMe’s system has a recognition algorithm for each type of device, whether that is a kettle or a washing machine. The system is trained at a global level, e.g. that a kettle is a binary type of device (draws no power or a fixed amount of power) and that it generally only draws power for a few minutes whereas a fridge runs continuously. When appliance disaggregation is in use in a particular household it also learns the characteristics of that particular household such as the fact that the kettle has an energy consumption rate of 2.3 Watts rather than 2.5 Watts. AlertMe can also detect settings related to the power consumption of an appliance such as the temperature at which a washing machine cycle was run.

Veutility is based in Dublin, Ireland and is currently raising funding.