Q&A with Chris from Smart Data

Hi everyone,

I hope you’re all keeping safe and well.

I’m Chris and I work in Bulb’s Smart Data team. This week we’re running our first ever Community Q&A between the 23rd and 27th of March. I’ll be here to answer any questions related to our long-term goals, my day-to-day job (e.g. analysing smart data, focussing on smart tariff issues, planning long-term improvements) or anything about the Smart Data product.

The Smart Data team was recently formed at Bulb and our mission is to design the best experience for our members with smart meters to help you lower your bills and lower your CO2 emissions.

We have some exciting work in progress including our smart tariff, energy usage charts as well as energy disaggregation.

Fire away any questions in this thread and I’ll respond as soon as I can :slight_smile:

There will also be agents on hand to help with account specific queries.

Have a great day!
Chris

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Hey, I was wondering how can smart data actually help people like me to be more energy efficient? :slight_smile:

Hi Lizzy, that’s a great question, thank you. There are two sides to this:

1) Using less energy

Smart data currently gives you the possibility of knowing how much energy you’re using at specific points of the day. Unlike traditional meters, you have access to half-hourly data or even live usage data from your In-Home Display (IHD). This can help you isolate specific appliances or usage habits that are consuming a lot of energy. For example, if you notice your energy use peak at the same time you run the washing machine each evening, you may want to consider using an eco-cycle setting or running it on a lower temperature.

We have a great help article with 10 tips on lowering your energy usage. I’d advise using your smart data to help inform which of these will work best for you :slight_smile:

2) Shifting your energy

You can also do good by shifting your energy usage outside of 4pm - 7pm if you’re on our smart tariff. 4pm - 7pm is when energy use is at its highest in the UK and therefore the most carbon intensive. Rest assured, all the electricity supplied by Bulb is 100% renewable and the gas is 100% carbon neutral. But by shifting our usage patterns, it decreases the need for fossil fuel power stations to power up during these peak times.

By using your smart data to know when you’re using energy at each point in the day, you can then make decisions to shift your usage outside of those peak hours. If you’re on our smart tariff, it’ll be cheaper for you to do so and you’ll be helping the planet at the same time.

Our smart tariff is expected to go live at the end of June but if you’re interested in being part of the Beta, just drop us an email at help@bulb.co.uk.

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Hi Chris,

Hope you’re keeping well.

Just a few general questions concerning your day-to-day job and working at Bulb:

  1. Firstly, what inspired to work at Bulb and in your current role?
  2. Second question concerns smart data - what do you mean when you say smart data? Does it relate to people’s consumption at HH level during a typical day? How identify the signature of different appliances used? For instance, do you apply Principle Component Analysis (PCA) to identify when they are switched on at which points during the day and offer cost saving tips to customers in that way?
  3. My final question concerns data collection and privacy: how do you record data from your smart meter products? For instance, is the data anonomysed, do you have any prior information concerning certain household characteristics, such as number of households or income level? What are some of the examples of energy saving recommendaitons that you make to your customers?

A lot of questions in there, I hope I’m not bothering you too much out of your daily job - sincerely appreciate and value your response.

Hope you have a great day!

Regards,
Farid

Hi Chris. Can you explain why my smart meter took almost a year to start reporting electricity readings and why the IHD has never worked please?

Hi Farid, these are great questions, thank you!

  1. I was inspired to work at Bulb because of my background in Renewable Energy. I wanted to apply myself in a way to be able to make the largest impact possible on the shift towards renewable energy. With regards to my role, I have a large interest in helping Bulb become an energy manager so we can help our members understand their energy better and ultimately use it more efficiently.

  2. The main two useful parts of Smart data are half-hourly (HH) consumption and 10 second data. Of course, we are very strict with our data privacy measures and we can only obtain smart data with full consent from our members. The default is that you are opted out from sharing this data if you have a smart meter. I’ll discuss a bit more on this in point 3. With regards to identification of different appliances used, although HH data is slightly less detailed, the 10 second data can help us spot more patterns in order to identify appliances. Essentially every appliance has its own ‘electrical footprint’, which can be detected by the 10 second data. HH data can only identify categories (i.e. lighting and heating). Overall we’d like to make findings like this available to our members and also so we can tailor specific energy saving recommendations for each person as it will be different based on each household and the usage patterns.

  3. When a smart meter is installed by Bulb we ask how frequently you’d like to send us readings (monthly, daily or half-hourly). By default, this will be monthly and similarly if someone has switched to us with a smart meter, we’ll default their preferences to monthly. We’re not currently taking 10 second data but once we’re set up to do so, it will be an entirely opt-in option. When we record the data, we don’t hold any previous household characteristics, which is why the analysis will never be 100% accurate but the 10 second data will provide a good opportunity to learn and improve our advice to members to help ensure it’s as useful as possible. Some examples of energy savings advice that we’ll be able to tailor for members can be found here.

Thanks!

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Hi @jonnyw,

As this is an account specific question, I’ve taken a look at your account and emailed you so that we can discuss your details privately, and work out the answer to your query there.

What have Bulb got planned to fully make use of the hh readings from a smart meter?

Would you ever consider a hh day-ahead tariff similer to octopus agile?

Alternatively could the focus be on linking up the smart meter to smart home devices?

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Hi @UnclaimedEnergy, thanks for your questions.

There are a few things in plan for making use of HH readings such as:

  • Using the HH data to determine if the smart tariff can help you save on your bills
  • Presenting HH usage charts in your Bulb Account
  • Using the HH reads to tailor energy savings advice

As for dynamic time-of-use tariffs (like the day-ahead tariff), we may consider it in the future. Smart opens up lots of possibilities but at the same time we want to make sure we’re keeping everything we do (including our tariff) as simple as possible.

Linking up the smart meter to smart home devices is certainly something we’d like to explore further. We’ve already started some work on this with Samsung and their SmartThings app. I’d encourage you to take a look if you’re interested :slight_smile:

What can you do to get my smart meter smart? seemingly, theres not enouh coverage in my area? The single reason I got a smart meter was so I didnt need to do readings…

Hi @deek_F :wave:,

I’m going to drop you an email so I can look into this as it’s more account specific. We can chat about the details privately.

Hi Chloe,
One of you very nice Customer support folk, (Elpitha) alreadty had a look/chat with smart team…not enough coverage in my area… It was more just incase, there was something technical we could do… :slight_smile:

Sounds like an awesome job! Thanks for getting back Chris!

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When will it be possible for consumers to see their own half-hourly kWh consumption? Here I am thinking of a set of data that I can directly load into Excel or an API for a programming language.

When will the 10s data be available?

In all cases I want the data direct from Bulb, not via a 3rd party (e.g. Samsung)

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Hi @jchidley, thanks for your questions :slight_smile:

We’re currently working on having the half-hourly (HH) data available to you on-demand from within your Bulb account. We hope that this will be available, at latest, by the end of June. However, of course, if you wanted your HH data as a one-off in a CSV format to be used in excel, you can drop us an email at any point to help@bulb.co.uk. We’ll then send you your history of HH data. All data shared with you will always be directly from Bulb.

As for 10 second data, this is a longer term project so the timeframes are less certain but we will be laying the groundwork over the next 3 months and hopefully deliver it soon after that.

Best,
Chris

@Chris_at_Bulb I think something like this would have been fantastic, especially for those who were on the Smart Tariff, if it was done months ago, but here we are!

For those curious, when half-hourly readings are taken correctly from a SMETS2 meter, this is what it looks like.

Whilst I’m neither a Bulb customer anymore, nor a Smart Tariff user anymore. I thought I would add a few key points/questions regarding my experience while I was on Bulb’s Smart Tariff (which aimed to take full advantage of the Smart Meter and data to help us reduce cost and usage).

I’m going to present this in as brief of a list as I can:

  • During the time that Bulb was trilling the Smart Tariff, why was there no direct communication channel between the beta-testers and the Smart Team at Bulb? Do you think this would have been beneficial both for the testers and the team?

  • What were the primary causes for the failure for Bulb to bill and produce accurate statements for the testers, when it was clear that your internal systems were recording half-hourly meter readings and hence had the data available?

  • Why did it take me having to email the CEO of Bulb personally to get statements for my time on the Smart Tariff and to reset my smart meter back to single rate?

  • What is the current plan for the Smart Tariff moving forward, is the tariff going to leave ‘beta’ or will Bulb be discontinuing the tariff?

  • Do Bulb consider the Smart Tariff trail to be successful and can it compete against alternative tariffs such as Agile from Octopus? In this regard do Bulb have plans to make changes to the Smart Tariff to make it more competitive? (i.e. Track wholesale price and set peak-time price cap.)

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Hi @Pantalaimon,

Thanks for your questions and I’m sorry about the experience you had during your time on the beta smart tariff.

On the first question, I think you’re absolutely right. Frequent and close communication between Bulb and our members is really important for us to truly understand how we can design the best product possible. We’ve recently been working closely with our user-experience specialists, who have conducted interviews with our smart members to understand how we can improve the experience. We hope to apply our learnings in the full launch.

For questions 2 and 3, there are different reasons why statements can fail to generate and especially so when we’re testing a new product. With beta, it is true that there have been some bumps along the way however these are the exact things we are trying to identify during a beta. Since then, we have made improvements to billing and the tariff off-boarding process and we’re confident that it’s a much more robust and reliable product.

The plan for the smart tariff going forward is definitely to move out of beta and launch within the coming months. As for dynamic ‘time of use’ tariffs, this is something we’ll consider for the future. However, we want to make sure we design a product that keeps things simple whilst helping our members save on their bills and lower their CO2 emissions.

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