Saving Lives Through Cross-Domain Alerts During Natural Disasters

Alex Varshavsky

Alex Varshavsky, CEO, Talksum

The strongest earthquake in 25 years rocked the Bay Area and California’s wine country last weekend – igniting fires, outing electricity, damaging wineries, causing floods, cracking historical buildings, and closing down local shops and restaurants. More than 100 people were sent to hospitals from the 6.1 quake, which was centered in American Canyon, just 35 miles from the Talksum headquarters.

Napa EarthquakeThere was no warning given during the temblor, which occurred at 3:30 am on Sunday, August 23. There was, however, a warning system that was in place and worked, according to the local press. Ten seconds before the shaking started, a computer at the University of California, Berkeley, sent out a warning from their seismological laboratory, which can detect when an earthquake starts within the earth’s crust minutes before the shaking hits the surface.

The earthquake alert system, which is used by the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) to halt trains automatically upon earthquake detections of high magnitude, works today but isn’t available to the public because of a lack of government funding. Last year, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law that ordered a “ShakeAlert” system using the technology developed by UC Berkeley and the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with scientists at the California Institute of Technology and the University of Washington. A lack of funding has halted this system, as it would cost about $100 million to build and test.

If such a system existed and could be applied across multiple domains such as the public sector, transportation, and energy, to name a few, real-time alerts could then be useful for first responders, emergency services, hospital readiness, traffic management, road conditions, potential power outages, public safety issues, insurance systems, commercial vehicle operations, service centers, and so on. More importantly, it could save lives during catastrophes and disasters.

Today, the real-time Talksum Data Stream Router, or TDSR, provides the basis for an alert system such as this – at a fraction of the cost. The TDSR handles most types of incoming data – including sensor data – from disparate sources. Data can consist of structured, semi-structured, or non-structured formats. Once ingested, the TDSR transforms, aggregates, enriches, filters, data reduces, and contextually routes – in real time and simultaneously – alerts, as well as other actionable data, to multiple downstream systems, including dashboards, storage, business intelligence tools, and databases.

The TDSR is highly configurable, can be easily deployed for highly specialized solutions without the need for specialized coding, and includes the foundational components for regulatory compliance, government standards, and policy control.

Not only can the Talksum solution save lives through cross-domain alerts, it also offers security controls that span firewalls, intrusion detection systems, anti-virus and anti-malware systems, network devices, server hosts, applications, physical systems, and more to eliminate the problems before they happen.

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Thoughts About Energy at ETS 2014

Alex VarshavskyAlex Varshavsky, CEO, Talksum

Last week (March 24-25), I attended the inaugural Energy Thought Summit (ETS) in Austin, TX, to both attend sessions and to moderate the Big Data/Analytics panel. The summit brought the world’s thought leaders together to debate the state and future of energy. Apple co-founder and Fusion-io Chief Scientist Steve Wozniak, who made a dramatic entry on the revolutionary Segway scooter, opened the event with his keynote address.

Sessions included smart grid realization; cyber security; utility of the future; smart cities; energy efficiencies; the smart consumer; grid edge opportunities; standards, policies, and emerging business models; and of course the panel I moderated – Big Data/Analytics.

The Big Data/Analytics panel consisted of the following energy thought leaders:

  • Bill Meehan, Esri, Director of Utility Solutions
  • Jeff Nichols, San Diego Gas & Electric, Director of Information Security and Management
  • Amit Narayan, AutoGrid, CEO
  • Larsh Johnson, eMeter (a Siemens Business), CTO & Founder
  • Brewster McCracken, Pecan Street Inc., CEO
  • Steve Collier, Milsoft Utility Solutions, Director of Smart Grid

I started the panel with a rapid-fire round of a simple, yet provocative question – what is Big Data?Talksum CEO Alex Varshavsky Moderates About Energy atthe ETS Panel

This paved the way for introducing each panelist and their company’s role within the Big Data space as it pertains to the Energy sector.

Next, I followed with the question where are we going with Big Data, and how do we get there?

Steve brought up distribution fault analysis, which uses algorithms at the device level (PMUs), away from the central site, to intelligently anticipate and prevent difficulties and faults (e.g., outages), rather than react to them.

Amit noted that AutoGrid looks at current data (i.e., minutes old versus a month old). He added to Steve’s thought that we can now anticipate and decide how actions will change a system – the paradigm of predictive control.

Brewster focused on water and how under-used it has been for energy resources and conservation. He mentioned that there has only been one study made in the United States on this subject – and that was 16 years ago! Many states are currently running low on water. He went on to say that a lot of money is currently allocated for this type of energy resource; for example, Texas is investing $1.2 billion in the next five years alone. He also mentioned the importance of distributed solar cells for the grid as a major Big Data target.

Bill sees Big Data within the Energy sector as a way to move from documentation to discovery. Most importantly, silos are breaking down through Big Data technology, and the industry is starting to “connect the dots,” uncovering patterns for making right decisions

According to Larsh, the Smart Meter infrastructure now gives you new insights for making decisions about grid investments – for example, where should additional sensors be located, where should you up-size conductors and transformers, and so on.

I then asked the question – where are we in the timeline for applying Big Data solutions and what is the price for action?

Jeff, who focuses on cyber security, believes that Big Data is the life-blood of the next-generation utility. As energy becomes more distributed with new players, the utility needs to understand what the data tells us at the operations front, the customer front, and the IT/security front. Unless we learn how to do understand that, the future is in question. The price of doing nothing is to become marginalized.

There were more viewpoints, discussions, and debates, including “fantasy applications,” data acquisition for universities, and others.

To view the video (second part) of the Big Data/Analytics panel, click here.

If you would like to discuss how the TDSR offering could help you in the Energy sector, or if you have any questions about Talksum, let us know by filling out the Talksum contact form.


Talksum to Debate the State and Future of Energy at ETS 2014

Dale Russell, Talksum CTODale Russell, CTO, Talksum

We will be in Austin, TX, on March 24-25, 2014, at the Energy Thought Summit (ETS), where we will be moderating the Big Data/Analytics panel, which will also feature energy thought leaders from AutoGrid, eMeter, SAS, Esri, Pecan Street, Milsoft Solutions, and Sempra Energy.

The ETS will bring the world’s thought leaders together for two days to debate the state and future of energy through smart dialogue and an engaging setting both online and offline.

At Talksum, we have a passion for energy as stated in this interview on energy, shown on the ETS 2014 website. Energy to us means hope. Hope for mankind to save the warming planet; hope to be able to bring intelligent renewable energy sources to places where it is needed the most; hope where it matters.

Other topics that will be covered during the Summit include panels on M2M, cyber security, smart cities, energy efficiency, and more.

The Talksum Data Stream Router (TDSR) fits within all of these topical categories. The product works at both the data center level and within embedded devices such as energy access points, oil well sites, vehicles, and so on, with a focus on security and privacy, as well as on changing government compliance, regulations, and policies.

In the energy sector, the TDSR can process smart metering and advanced metering infrastructure data to provide real-time actionability for Smart Grid systems to drastically reduce latency of critical events and to enhance the resiliency of energy delivery networks.

In oil and gas exploration and production, the TDSR processes upstream data to provide real-time actionability and reduce non-operational time and prevent disasters.

And in transportation, the TDSR handles data sets at the vehicle level and/or data center level to format data in real time and to enrich the data by correlating events with other external data sources.

These are just a few examples of market solutions. The TDSR sits between source content and the end targets. It ingests data from multiple disparate sources; normalizes, aggregates, data reduces, and filters the information; and contextually routes the information in appropriate states (for example, alerts, well information, etc.) where it should go – to a BI tool, database, storage, and so on – all in real time.

We are looking forward to moderating the Big Data/Analytics panel and helping to stimulate debates about the current and future state of energy. If you will be attending the ETS Summit and would like to set up a meeting in Austin, TX, fill out the Talksum Contact Us form and let us know.