York-led research team developing “Active Data” technology for new ways to use greener electricity

word cloud related to active technologies

A York-led research team has been awarded an NSERC I2I grant to accelerate the development of patent-pending technology that promises new ways to reduce the carbon load of electricity.

Stephen Chen
Stephen Chen

The team led by Stephen Chen, associate professor in the School of Information Technology, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, has received funding valued at $124,155. The grant will support the development and commercialization of Active Data based technologies, which will form the foundation of future smart grids. Active Data involves the communication and coordination of future actions, so it is the next step beyond Big Data which focuses on data from past and current events.

It is difficult to integrate intermittent renewable energy (for example, wind and solar energies) onto the electricity grid as sudden surges or drops can wreak havoc on the system. Active Data will give utility companies the opportunity to balance the grid with flexible user demand. The philosophy is simple − use green energy to do things that need to be done anyway, just at a time when green energy is abundant.

The following example based on a programmable dishwasher presents the new opportunities created by Active Data. To take advantage of cheaper electricity at night, a user might set their dishwasher to run every night at 3am. Although big data-based technologies can predict behaviour to determine when this appliance will run every night, they cannot modify this behaviour. With Active Data, utility companies will know that users only care that dishes are clean by morning and that the exact time the dishwasher runs is unimportant. The utility company can then choose to spread out when a set of dishwashers is run (such as load balancing) or turn many on at once to match excess power created during a period of strong wind.

Commercialization of Active Data technologies will be pursued through a spin-off company, MOAI Solutions, Inc. The Active Data-enabled Internet-of-things products in development will allow users to minimize their carbon footprint by matching their energy consumption to green energy production. These products are part of the necessary bridge to a future grid in which peak demand is supplied by renewable sources and new industries that can exploit Essential, Non-Time Sensitive (ENTS) loads are developed to effectively use the excess, off-peak supply.

MOAI Solutions is receiving business development support from Innovation York as part of the commercialization agreement between Chen and York University. The intellectual property generated through the NSERC I2I grant will be protected and transferred to MOAI Solutions with the assistance from Innovation York and York University will receive future shares in the company.

“Congratulations to Professor Stephen Chen and his research team for this accomplishment,” said Robert Haché, York’s vice-president research & innovation. “Innovation York has worked with Professor Chen and MOAI Solutions Inc. to help commercialize this patent-pending technology, which promises new ways to use greener electricity.”