IS&T helps build Energize_MIT, an open community resource
May 23, 2017
Robyn Fizz
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energize_mit dashboard image
Image: Courtesy of Energize_MIT

You may have heard about the Sustainability DataHub, a cloud-based, big-data pipeline sponsored by the MIT Office of Sustainability (MITOS). Recently the DataHub’s first deliverable, Energize_MIT, went live. This energy data platform provides information on campus energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. As an open community resource, it will support research and intelligent decision-making and help to advance MIT’s Plan for Action on Climate Change.

Many Institute offices teamed up to make this happen, including MITOS, the Department of Facilities, the Parking and Transportation Office, the Environment, Health and Safety Office (EHS), and Information Systems and Technology (IS&T).

The Energize_MIT platform

IS&T’s Data Science Team played a central role in building Energize_MIT. The team developed the platform using Amazon Web Services technologies, Apache Hadoop, and Apache Spark. Working with Derek Wietsma, a MITOS Senior Data Analyst, the team also created a dashboard that uses Tableau for data visualization.

Here’s one example of how Energize_MIT works. Facilities has put smart meters on new buildings and buildings undergoing major renovations. These meters stream utility power data to the DataHub; for other buildings, Facilities supplies estimates based on its existing building management systems. All of this source data is aggregated, then sent to the Tableau server where it can be visualized.

The Data Science Team has created eight kinds of data flows, some with continually streaming data and some with “point-in-time” triggering events. Olu Brown, IS&T’s Director of Platform Engagement, notes that as data changes on the back end, it’s available in real time for Tableau visualization.

MITOS and the Data Science Team are now exploring ways to source other energy data, such as solar production data from on-campus installations and the Summit Farms solar array in North Carolina.

The Summit Farms array has garnered interest from Mechanical Engineering, Materials Science and Engineering, and the MIT Energy Initiative. MITOS and the Data Science Team are working with these departments, as well as Dominion North Carolina Power, to stream data from the solar farm through the DataHub. Once researchers can access that data via an application programming interface (API), it will help them normalize research on improving solar panel technology and how it’s deployed and operated. The project, now in discovery, will go live in FY2018.

Toward a sustainable future

Energize_MIT is the first deliverable of the Sustainability DataHub, with much more to come. MITOS plans to launch a Sustainability DataHub website later this year, as a central place to consolidate and share data and offer tools for analysis. It will provide data on everything from bike lanes and tree spaces, to parking and ride sharing, to waste and water.

This open platform, which includes Energize_MIT, will play an important role in helping the Institute reduce its carbon footprint. It will also spark insights about sustainable solutions and practices that MIT researchers can share with a much wider audience.