When measured data hit the road

What will the energy supply of the future look like? Researchers at Aspern Smart City Research (ASCR) are looking for answers in a giant lake of data. Every day its level rises by 1.5 million values captured from 110 Vienna households.

The city that never sleeps? Forget New York! In reality the city that never sleeps is Aspern Lakeside, an urban development project in Vienna. Why? A never-ending stream of data flows through the power and communications lines at day and at night. 110 households are part of a research project conducted by Aspern Smart City Research (ASCR). Experts are looking for complex relationships within the energy system. They are using real data – 1.5 million measured values per day.

In the participating households, sensors measure the temperature, humidity as well as water, heat and power consumption. Heat pumps, solar-power units and energy storage systems continuously churn out information about their operational status. Weather sensors provide up-to-date information about the wind levels and solar radiation. More than 100 monitoring devices keep watch on the widest range of power values in the low-voltage grid and in 11 transformer stations. All of these data are produced at intervals of 2.5 minutes to 60 minutes. Added altogether, it amounts to about 1.5 million measured data sets each day.

Taking a dip in the data lake

The journey taken by each individual measured data set begins at a single sensor and ends in data analysis. Its route varies in accordance to its source: It travels by electric cable, fiber optic cable or the Siemens building management system Desigo CC to the data center of ASCR. During the trip, some individual data streams are sidetracked for analysis purposes in smart transformer stations set up throughout the grid. With the help of software applications, the structure of the power grid can be deduced without having to be aware of the exact current arrangement. As a result, grid operators can automatically determine the topology of existing grids and save significant amounts of time and money.


Once they arrive in the data center, the measured data initially take a dip in a data lake. Like schools of fish, they swim around pell-mell in this huge lake and are observed by data specialists. “We initially conduct an unstructured analysis in order to search for any deviations or special features,” says Gerhard Engelbrecht of the technology field Business Analytics and Monitoring at Corporate Technology of Siemens, one of the experts working on the ASCR project. “Our goal is to find patterns in the data.”

Complex questions about energy efficiency and CO2 emissions

Just how much energy and CO2 can be saved in state-of-the-art school and apartment buildings? How can urban buildings efficiently take part in the energy market, and how will this impact grid operators? Around 200 such questions have been spelled out in the research catalogue of ASCR. These questions are to be answered with the help of structured data analysis.


As part of this work, analysts check on such things as whether defined thresholds in the power grid are being maintained. The results serve as the basis for work to optimize planning processes in the grid area and to evaluate possible grid overloads. Models are derived as well – these can include how solar systems should be optimally sized in order to guarantee feed-in potential and yield opportunities. Once all measured data have undergone both analytical steps, they have temporarily come to the end of their journey and are parked in an archive. They can be retrieved at any time to validate current results and conduct new analyses.

More produces more

But what is the point of collecting mountains of data? Engelbrecht explains the reasons for the researchers’ hunger for data this way: “Even data that appear to provide little information are valuable. We can spot repetitive patterns in them.“ For instance, an outage may occur whenever a switch is turned on or off. This is a valuable piece of information for a building manager trying to track down a problem. „If we collected only those data that we knew in advance that we would need, it would be impossible to track down the source of problems and perform predictive maintenance," says Engelbrecht.


The first ASCR results regarding the automated maintenance of energy and Information and Communication Technologies infrastructure are now available. Researchers are also producing valid empirical values for the smart meter rollout that is planned to begin in Vienna in 2018.

Even data that appear to provide little information are valuable.
Gerhard Engelbrecht, Siemens AG

Digital reproduction of reality

The research focal point Smart ICT (Information and Communication Technoolgies) of Aspern Smart City Research (ASCR) uses the data from the test field to digitally replicate reality in order to analyze and optimize the interplay or interaction of the grid, buildings and the energy consumption of users. The key factor is the overarching examination of data from various domains – this holistic approach is internationally unique. The mountains of data are processed with Big Data methods. The most stringent data protection and security policies are applied to this work as well.


Aspern Smart City Research GmbH & Co KG (ASCR) is a joint venture between a network operator, an international technology company, an energy generation and supply company, and the City of Vienna.




Picture credits: Siemens AG

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