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Data mining tech wins the day at Melbourne “Energy Hack”

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A software platform that mines data and uses machine learning to boost household energy efficiency has taken out top honours at Energy Hack 2016 – a two-day energy and technology brainstorm held in Melbourne over the weekend.

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The event, hosted by the University of Melbourne’s Energy Institute and upstart online electricity retailer Powershop, brought together 80 participants to form 20 teams to unlock ideas and stimulate entrepreneurship in the energy industry.

Eight judges saw pitches for 13 creative technology ideas, ranging from an energy management chatbot, to a matchmaking service for renewable energy project owners and investors, to an app to educate primary school children, and an energy load matching algorithm.

The winners, a team of PhD students called Planet Lovers, were chosen for their design of a platform that uses data mining techniques and machine learning to help consumers use energy more efficiently.

“We believe that existing energy services don’t use the full potential of big data to provide deep insights for consumers,” said Planet Lovers co-founder Zahra Ghafoori.

“We will use recent breakthroughs in machine learning techniques to dig into data and improve individual and collective intelligence on energy usage.

“Energy Hack gave us the opportunity to test our data mining techniques and to demonstrate how our ideas can make an impact, particularly on encouraging more consumers to invest in renewable energy,” she said.

Second place in the competition went to an innovation dubbed Solmates, which conducts load matching for solar power usage. Third place was awarded to Powerbot: chatbot that manages peak load by getting consumers out of the house.

Team Spark were awarded a $5,000 cash prize from the Victorian State Government for their Rover Rover educational app that uses augmented reality to promote renewable energy and eco tourism to Victorian primary school students.

The MEI’s 2016 Energy Hack, which was opened on the weekend by state energy minister Lily D’Ambrosio, follow on from similar “crowd-sourcing” events, including the hugely successful Solar Hackathons spearheaded by the US DoE.

Australia’s CSIRO hosted its own Solar Hackathon even in April this year, in which a clever solar mapping tool called Solar Captus – that uses satellite imaging and image recognition software to create a database of all 5GW of Australia’s rooftop solar systems – has its origins.

“The talent, creativity, and problem solving mentality on display over the weekend well and truly surpassed our expectations,” said Powershop CEO Ed Mcmanus.

“We would like to see all of the great ideas be developed further and wish some of them were already available to the industry today,” he said.

“We are particularly encouraged by the passion for renewable energy and community energy that came through in many of the pitches, and by the prospect of helping these teams – and other energy start-ups – to further refine and commercialise their ideas via our new Powershop Labs initiative.”  

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