Brainstorming Apps for a Clean Energy Future

Building off the recent launch of the Energy Data Initiative, fifty technologists, entrepreneurs, and investors joined staff from the White House, Department of Energy, and the Environmental Protection Agency to participate in an “Energy Data Jam” last week in New York City. One of the goals of the half-day workshop was to brainstorm how freely available datasets—i.e., open data—might be used by clean-energy entrepreneurs for new products, services, or apps.

Launched by the Obama Administration earlier this year, the Energy Data Initiative aims to help Americans shrink their energy costs, improve the environment, and create jobs.  By “liberating” data from the vaults of the government and other sources, the Energy Data Initiative empowers innovators to transform data into valuable tools that we can actually use in our daily lives.

Participants at the New York Energy Data Jam developed a number of interesting ideas about how open data could be put to beneficial use, including:

  • A “Check-Engine Light” for your home – an application or notification service that lets you know when major systems in your home, such as your hot-water heater or central air conditioner, need maintenance.
  • A database of thousands of buildings’ energy performance to advance investor confidence in financing commercial-building energy upgrades.
  • “Smart Tripping” – a smart-phone application that provides pro-active route planning and trip suggestions for a commute.  (Imagine if your phone recommended you leave early one morning to catch a bus because of bad weather and congestion on your normal route).

Interested in seeing other ideas that were generated at the workshop? They are catalogued on OpenEI.org, which, along with energy.data.gov,showcases a wide range of open energy data sets.  You can also contribute your own ideas for new products, applications, features, and services that leverage open data by e-mailing DataInnovation@hq.doe.gov

As similar efforts in health and education have demonstrated, making data freely available—while rigorously protecting privacy—can accelerate the creation of new companies and help unlock new markets. Open data is a fuel for innovation and the Energy Data Initiative is a driving force for a clean energy future.

Nick Sinai is the Senior Advisor to the U.S. Chief Technology Officer.  Ian Kalin is the Director of the Energy Data Initiative at the U.S. Department of Energy.

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