energy innovation

This techie from Ahmedabad is helping save the planet by curbing energy waste

Harit Soni’s company has won the International Ashden Award for Powering Business.

Selling gems and stones would have been the most obvious career choice for Harit Soni, considering his family had been in the business for years. But Soni did not want it easy – so he became part of India’s growing techie population instead.

A telecommunications engineer from Bengaluru and a Chevening Gurukul Fellow from the London School of Economics, Soni worked with the IT powerhouse Infosys and then moved to the international giant KPMG, where he helped various companies, most of which were in the energy business, improve their operations. It was during his interactions with these companies that he realised the number of challenges they faced due to losses in power distribution.

The problem was not intractable – by tapping into information technology, Soni felt, it could be solved. This led to the idea of energy management and smart grids and subsequently to the founding of Ecolibrium Energy. “Our main intent was to help the power sector become smarter with IT,” said Soni, who set up the company in Ahmedabad with his brother Chintan.

Ecolibrium Energy, with its 85 employees, was declared winner of the award for Powering Business at this year’s International Ashden Awards in mid-June.

According to the Ashden judging panel: “Ecolibrium Energy’s business intelligence technology demonstrates how the power of big data can make a significant difference when it comes to optimising energy use. With Ecolibrium Energy’s technology, which can be applied across many different operations, large businesses – including blue chip clients - can understand, control and massively reduce their energy costs.”

The Ashden Awards were established in 2001 by Sarah Butler-Sloss, a philanthropist who witnessed the impact of clean energy technologies in off-grid communities in Africa. The awards uncover the best in sustainable energy and showcase their potential to an influential audience at a high-profile ceremony. Winners receive £20,000 in prize money and a tailored package of support to help scale up their work.

India’s run at the Ashden Awards has been impressive, with clean energy start-ups and companies making their mark. Last year, Frontier Markets and Greenlight Planet won the Ashden – while Frontier Markets is helping provide high quality solar lamps in remote areas, Greenlight Planet has powered 5 million households worldwide with solar energy solutions.

Need for energy efficiency

At a time when climate change is an ever-present threat, there is a dire need to conserve energy and reduce carbon emissions. This won’t be easy for India. According to a report released by the Central Electricity Authority, the requirement for electrical energy is expected to grow by 37% in five years and the nation will need 1,566 billion units of energy in the financial year 2022. The International Energy Agency expects India will add nearly 600 million new electricity consumers by 2040.

Soni’s winning innovation, SmartSense, is pitching in by helping over 750 commercial and industrial consumers and utilities in South Asia save up to 15% of their energy and maintenance costs.

As Soni explained, industries and buildings are energy guzzlers and consume nearly 50% of the world’s energy. A fifth of this is, unfortunately, mismanaged or wasted. Soni’s SmartSense curbs the wastage by monitoring the energy consumption in an industry or building by “using Internet of Things, data analytics and machine learning algorithms to perform predictive maintenance on the equipment…”

This is how the technology works, according to Soni: “There are two main concepts involved. In order for energy or asset optimisation to happen, data about the current efficiency levels needs to be continuously monitored. SmartSense does data monitoring in a continuous and wireless manner… and stores the data on a cloud hosted by IT servers.”

For instance, tracking the constant power consumption by a large motor in a factory and in case of an issue such as bearing failure, the algorithms running on SmartSense send out an alert. This helps plug in wastages before they become large. It also saves the motor from further deterioration and failure. The same example can be applied to larger machines such as transformers, municipal pumps, making industrial and public infrastructure smarter. This in turn ensures that power is consumed efficiently.

Jürgen from Sandesneben, Germany - Flickr/ Wikimedia Commons CC BY 2.0
Jürgen from Sandesneben, Germany - Flickr/ Wikimedia Commons CC BY 2.0

Soni said big data analytics, or large amounts of real time data from machines, factories and buildings is constantly monitored on the server. This data is constantly analyzed using advanced algorithms, and then in case of any deviation in trends, an alert is sent out identifying the key issue.

In the years to come, he’s positive that big data for smarter industries is going to become more and more important. With industries becoming more automated, even equipment maintenance is going to be done in a data oriented manner – and big data and analytics are going to a play key role in this. “In the next four to five years, big data in industries and buildings is going to be a norm and not an exception.”

Currently, Ecolibrium Energy, with its 85 employees, is implementing SmartSense in more than 500 businesses in India. Some of the companies using big data and predictive energy analytics to improve efficiency are Ashok Leyland, Shell, Intas Pharma, Verizon and Bluestar.

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It’s the new year and it’s already time to plan your next holiday

Here are some great destinations for you to consider.

Vacation planning can get serious and strategic. Some people swear by the save and splurge approach that allows for one mini getaway and one dream holiday in a year. Others use the solo to family tactic and distribute their budget across solo trips, couple getaways and family holidays. Regardless of what strategy you implement to plan your trip, the holiday list is a handy tool for eager travellers. After having extensively studied the 2018 holiday list, here’s what we recommend:

March: 10 days of literature, art and culture in Toronto

For those you have pledged to read more or have more artistic experiences in 2018, Toronto offers the Biblio-Mat, the world’s first randomising vending machine for old books. You can find the Biblio-Mat, paper artefacts, rare books and more at The Monkey’s Paw, an antiquarian bookseller. If you can tear yourself away from this eclectic bookstore, head over to The Public Library in Toronto for the Merril Collection of over 72000 items of science fiction, fantasy magic realism and graphic novels. With your bag full of books, grab a coffee at Room 2046 – a café cum store cum studio that celebrates all things whimsical and creative. Next, experience art while cycling across the 80km Pan Am Path. Built for walking, running, cycling and wheeling, the Pan Am Path is a recreational pathway that offers a green, scenic and river views along with art projects sprinkled throughout the route. You can opt for a guided tour of the path or wander aimlessly for serendipitous discoveries.

Nothing beats camping to ruminate over all those new ideas collected over the past few days. Make way to Killarney Provincial Park for 2-3 days for some quiet time amongst lakes and hills. You can grab a canoe, go hiking or get back to nature, but don’t forget to bring a tent.

If you use the long-weekend of 2nd March to extend your trip, you get to experience the Toronto Light Festival as a dazzling bonus.

June: 10 days of culinary treats, happy feet and a million laughs in Chicago

Famous for creating the deep-dish pizza and improv comedy, Chicago promises to banish that mid-year lull. Get tickets for The Second City’s Legendary Laughs at The UP-Comedy Club - the company that gave us the legendary Tina Fey, Stephen Colbert and Key & Peele. All that laughter can sure work up an appetite, one that can be satiated with Lou Malnati’s classic deep-dish pizza. For dessert, head over to the Ferrara Original Bakery for mouth-watering treats.

Chicago in June is pleasant and warm enough to explore the outdoors and what better way to soak in the sunshine, than by having a picnic at the Maggie Daley Park. Picnic groves, wall climbing, mini golf, roller blading – the park offers a plethora of activities for individuals as well as families.

If you use the long weekend of 15th June, you can extend your trip to go for Country LakeShake – Chicago’s country music festival featuring Blake Shelton and Dierks Bentley.

August: 7 days in London for Europe’s biggest street festival

Since 1964, the Notting Hill Carnival has been celebrating London’s Caribbean communities with dancing, masquerade and music ranging from reggae to salsa. Watch London burst into colours and sparkle at the Notting Hill Carnival. Home to Sherlock Holmes and Charles Dickens Museum, London is best experienced by wandering through its tiny streets. Chance encounters with bookstores such as Foyles and Housemans, soaking in historic sights while enjoying breakfast at Arthur’s Café or Blackbird Bakery, rummaging the stalls at Broadway market or Camden Market – you can do so much in London while doing nothing at all.

The Museum of Brand, Packaging and Advertising can send you reminiscing about those old ads, while the Clowns Gallery Museum can give you an insight in clown-culture. If you’d rather not roam aimlessly, book a street-art tour run by Alternative London or a Jack the Ripper Tour.

October: 10 days of an out-of-body experience in Vegas

About 16 km south of the intersection of Las Vegas Boulevard and St. Rose Parkway in Henderson, lies a visual spectacle. Seven Magic Mountains, an art installation by Ugo Rondinone, stands far away from the wild vibe that people expect in Las Vegas and instead offers a sense of wonder. Imagine seven pillars of huge, neon boulders, stacked up against one another stretched towards the sky. There’s a lot more where that came from, in Las Vegas. Captivating colour at the permanent James Turrell exhibit in Louis Vuitton, outdoor adventures at the Bootleg Canyon and vintage shopping at Patina Décor offer experiences that are not usually associated with Vegas. For that quintessential Vegas show, go for Shannon McBeath: Absinthe for some circus-style entertainment. If you put the holiday list to use, you can make it for the risefestival – think thousands of lanterns floating in the sky, right above you.

It’s time to get on with the vacation planning for the new year. So, pin up the holiday list, look up deals on hotels and flights and start booking. Save money by taking advantage of the British Airways Holiday Sale. With up to 25% off on flight, the offer is available to book until 31st January 2018 for travel up to 31st December in economy and premium economy and up to 31st August for business class. For great fares to great destinations, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of British Airways and not by the Scroll editorial team.