Get the data out!

This is data.Data is everywhere, but you can’t always get at it. It’s trapped in millions of silos, each with its own proprietary way of representing that data.

Not all this data is “big data.” Some of it’s unsexy, and very low bandwidth:

  • Your kid’s test scores
  • What you spent on gasoline last month
  • How far you ran this morning before work

In silos, this data has little worth; but in aggregate, even mundane data can create significant value. There’s a lot you can do to this data:

  • Standardize it
  • Aggregate it
  • Make it searchable and viewable
  • Look for correlations
  • Make recommendations

All this stuff is incredibly cool. But, first, you need to get the data out.

Usually, to get a customer’s proprietary data, you need to give him something he wants — for free. For example, Facebook gives you a nice place to keep in touch with friends. Hunch recommends products you’ll probably like. Mint gives you single dashboard to track your finances.

But, that’s not the business they’re in. Facebook wants to expose you to highly targeted ads. Hunch wants to sell leads and/or its API to e-retailers and product companies. Mint wants to hawk financial products at you based on how you compare to others like you.

Similar models exist with lots of other data sets:

So, what’s the valuable data set in cleantech?

The obvious answer is energy consumption, in real-time. But, that data set doesn’t get you very far. Knowing how much energy a facility burns, for instance, doesn’t tell you how to reduce that burn. To take action, you need all sorts of meta-data: facility age, equipment type, hours of operation, etc. Ideally, you’d compare your facility to one with similar meta-data and then make a conclusion as to what you’re doing wrong. Unfortunately, getting a customer to give up the meta-data is hard to do.

EnerNOC (NASDAQ:ENOC) figured out one approach that worked. Demand response revenue is effectively “found money” for facility managers who are used to being cost centers. Once EnerNOC turns on a customer, they have access to data which can be aggregated across customers and increasingly used to add value to its products. It’s a powerful model which leads to a better customer experience and competitive barriers to entry.

So, in conclusion, I’ll simply offer up two big questions for you all to think about and comment on below:

  1. What are the most valuable data sets in cleantech?
  2. And, what’s the hook for a customer that gets the data out?
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