Bert Lutje Berenbroek has 20 years of experience in the semiconductor business with innovative companies in Silicon Valley and Boston. He started Net2Grid 10 years ago with the vision that access to real-time energy data is a necessary piece of the puzzle supporting the energy transition. In this interview, he talks about what his company has to offer and what’s next for Net2Grid.
E-3 Magazine: What exactly does Net2Grid offer?
Bert Lutje Berenbroek: Net2Grid is an AI-enabled software company which turns energy consumption data into personalized and actionable insights, empowering end users to become energy efficient. Our clients are energy companies based in Europe, North America, and Australia who offer our products and services to their clients. Increasingly we see interest in our services by tech and financial corporations, too.
One concrete example of what our services can do is the successful collaboration we have with E.ON Germany. Net2Grid is the hardware, platform, and NILM (Non-Intrusive Load Monitoring) supplier of E.ON’s app iONA. Through iONA, customers can view and control their electricity consumption in detail, helping them prevent energy guzzlers, compare devices, and gain an overview of the breakdown of costs. E.ON Germany saw a customer engagement increase from 3 minutes/year to 120 minutes/year after adopting Net2Grid’s energy insight solution.
How does your solution work?
Berenbroek: Our white labeled platform, Ynni, utilizes the energy consumption data which our clients already possess (be it historical, AMR, or real-time data) to provide energy insights to the end customer. Our self-learning algorithms disaggregate activities like cooking, electric heating, and EV charging based on Automatic Meter Reading (AMR) data (collected every 15, 30, or 60 minutes) and appliances such as washing machines, dryers, and ovens on real-time data (collected every 1 to 10 seconds). We offer an integrated customer journey whereby the consumer can start with the basic energy insights and transition seamlessly within the same app into the premium energy insights. The software platform is installed on the client’s Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud servers, so they are the data controller and they set the terms and conditions with their end customers. This makes our service GDPR compliant.
What are the customer-side requirements? Do they need any special devices to use your solution?
Berenbroek: To enjoy our basic energy insights, all they need to do is to download the Ynni app from the App store or from Google Play and sign up for the online energy insight service. No special hardware is required as we base our basic energy insight service on AMR data that we get from each country’s DSO (Distribution System Operator). For the premium energy insights, consumers need to install our plug-and-play gateway called Smartbridge. This is a small, self-install device which connects to the house’s smart meter via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth and enables us to collect real-time data. We are probably the only company in the world which can solve the problem of collection of the energy consumption data regardless of the smart meter type or the country. This is thanks to our in-house hardware series which matches technical meter specificities worldwide.
Why did you start Net2Grid to begin with?
Berenbroek: I was in the semiconductor business most of my life. In my former job, I interacted with companies which were building smart meters, and I saw two things. One was that the real-time data that smart meters are generating on the home area port of meters is underutilized, and I was convinced even eight years ago that the energy transition is all about real-time data. The AMR data is a temporary thing, the future is really about real-time data because of the volatility of renewables. The other thing I observed was that many companies were in the smart home space, many companies were fighting for verticals, and many companies were trying to be the company that does all the different verticals. Gateways were produced with all different wireless standards and would cost roughly 200 dollars. It was way too complex. We were convinced about the set-up box model, where the service is leading the hardware, and that the hardware must be lean and mean, as cheap as possible, secure, and easy to install. Once there is a service that cannot be supported by the hardware, you simply replace the hardware.
That is the model we applied to Net2Grid, and that is still the core of our infrastructure. We have very lean hardware which is capable of doing a lot. We do a lot of data preprocessing and even real-time detection of appliances on the edge, but the flexibility of our services is managed from the cloud. So, it’s this holistic design between hardware on the edge, a cloud platform that we are running on AWS, and a data science infrastructure that is building very lean models that are unique to every house. I used a little bit of my engineering background to facilitate that.
How has SAP.io’s involvement impacted your journey?
Berenbroek: In October 2020, Net2Grid was one of the seven startups which were selected from over 100 applicants to participate in the SAP.io Foundry Tel Aviv Utilities Industry Cohort 2020. The SAP.io Foundry Tel Aviv Utilities accelerator program helps promising startups to integrate with SAP solutions in order to develop new joint offerings for the utilities industry. During the 12-week program, Net2Grid worked closely with SAP’s industry experts and developed and tested use cases which will soon be integrated with SAP’s new Cloud for Energy product suite and become part of its product portfolio. In the context of the program, Net2Grid will get support in engaging with SAP’s global utilities clients.
What’s next for Net2Grid?
Berenbroek: We are currently working with various energy companies around the world in Europe, America, and Australia. Our plan is to expand our business even further and enter agreements with even more energy companies around the world. Furthermore, we would like to expand our partnerships with non-energy companies like we have done with Samsung and SAP and various other tech giants. We also want to continue our research and innovation partnerships with academia both in Greece and abroad. Our ambition is to become the best company in the world in collecting and analyzing electricity consumption data.
Thank you for the interview.
If you would like to know more about Net2Grid, SAP.io included the company in their podcast mini-series energenius, where they highlight startups’ innovative solutions, their role in the energy transition, and how they bring value to SAP customers.
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