Closeup of EnerNOC dashboard

Case study:Energy Company Takes Visual Approach to Data

13 Sep 2017 by Insight Editor

Facts at a glance

Organization:

Enel X (formerly EnerNOC)

Client industry:

Energy

Challenge:

Enel X wanted to express its revolutionary way of applying business intelligence to energy management through a next-generation network operations center with a large video wall to provide a "more show, less tell" approach. 

Solution:

  • Windows Presentation Foundation/Direct 2D apps
  • Windows computers with 25-megapixel displays
  • ASP.NET MVC SignalR
  • Microsoft SQL Server

Results

  • Simple, easy-to-grasp visualizations
  • Real-time data streaming
  • Aggregated data from disparate sources

Solution area:

Insight’s Digital Innovation solutions help clients incorporate emerging tech into their business operations to improve the customer experience.

Energy intelligence software and related solutions provider Enel X (formerly EnerNOC) aims to redefine the way the world thinks about energy. The company provides a comprehensive suite of demand response applications and services that maintain real-time balance between electricity supply and demand to utilities and grid operators worldwide.

The company’s services also help organizations save money, earn payments and support the electric grid by using energy more effectively. Enel X is a pioneer in using data to understand energy usage and demand, with the goals of reducing costs, mitigating the risk of outages and "greening the grid."

Wanted: New network operations center look

When Enel X moved its corporate headquarters to the Innovation District of Boston, it wanted to express its revolutionary way of applying business intelligence to energy management through a next-generation Network Operations Center (NOC) with a large video wall. The wall consists of 24 55-inch screens with two primary purposes:

  1. To give customers touring the office a visual representation of the pulse of Enel X's global network at a macro level
  2. To serve as a functional view of the network for Enel X personnel

Enel X reached out to Insight for help with the screen visualization design and supporting technical expertise related to the data and imagery to be displayed during customer tours.

A control center that tells a story

The look and feel of the initial NOC didn't reflect Enel X’s technology with respect to its physical plant, control center displays and underlying application infrastructure. The format of much of the data presented on the screens proved difficult for visitors — and even some NOC operators — to interpret quickly.

To build trust and confidence in prospective customers — and to convey that Enel X could be a dependable partner with the technology, capacity and security customers require to handle their complex energy management needs — Enel X needed a "more show, less tell" approach. The idea was to create simple visuals that would present the company's story ("We make it easy for you ...") while conveying the great depth and sophistication behind those visuals ("... but it's not easy to do").

The writing is on the wall.

To remove complexity and reduce the data to simple, easy-to-grasp visualizations, Insight's Digital Innovation team reimagined the way the data could be shown.

For example, instead of displaying current temperatures on a map of the United States, we changed the presentation to show only deviations from the average. Eschewing a red/yellow/green color scheme, we displayed the data in terms of intensity of tone — where the brightest represented the greatest deviation, and the dimmest represented the least.

To make the wallboard more sleek and visually impressive, the design team pulled the look and feel of the separate displays together, incorporating Enel X's branding for a cohesive appearance across all. Finally, we worked across the functional areas of the organization to surface and incorporate data sources that had previously been siloed.

The wallboard consists of Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF)/Direct2D apps running on two Windows 7 computers with 25-megapixel displays. Real-time streaming from the data sources to the front ends is enabled by ASP.NET MVC SignalR, chosen because it can work with any client over standard network protocols (e.g., HTTP and HTTPS).

Data for the wallboard is aggregated from disparate sources and stored to Microsoft SQL Server in the cloud, where it serves as the primary source of historical information.

An iPad device in the main conference room controls the presentation and enables navigation through all screens via a responsive website built on jQuery Mobile and Zurb Foundation.

The new Enel X wallboard is the centerpiece of the innovation district office. It blends high-fidelity visualizations with real-time data from numerous sources. Its immersive interface tells a narrative about the state of the data and flows the viewer through a sequence of data visualizations that demonstrate the "lifecycle of a piece of data."

A dependable partner

Insight “knows their tool set and can identify risks right at the outset,” says Enel X's director of operations. “I had several projects leading up to our grand opening, and this one was by far the biggest and the one I was least worried about. From my early interactions with the team, I was very comfortable putting myself in their hands, and that’s a big deal.”

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