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For ENGIE, OptimData makes dams speak

Energy Communities

OptimData is a young startup founded in 2015 by Laurent Couillard and Etienne Droit. Their specialty is making machines talk to improve their performance. Since winning a call for projects sponsored by SHEM, ENGIE’s hydroelectricity subsidiary, the OptimData team has been invited to Viva Technology (May 24th-26th) to take part in ENGIE's Energy Lab.

Laurent Couillard, OptimData’s co-founder and CEO, answered our questions and introduced us to his company and his vision for the future.

Could you give us a short introduction to OptimData?

At OptimData we use artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things to help industries and energy producers improve their performance.

For ENGIE, we work with SHEM, your subsidiary that produces hydroelectricity from dams in the Pyrenees. We helped them set up smart, connected dams that can put in requests for the services they need during energy production.

And in the same way that we’re equipping the SHEM and ENGIE’s dams to “talk”, OptimData has connected more than 650 different industrial objects so they can get the digital services they need in the production process.

I’m guessing you won’t be able to bring a dam to Vivatech, so what are you going to be showcasing? 

We will be showcasing an application called SMAP, which we developed with the SHEM, and running it live to show how it connects to hydroelectric power stations and to let people listen to them talk.

Our approach, like our app, has a number of facets.

One is the Studio InUse environment, which we use to teach the dams to be smart, training them to detect critical components and to solicit the right services for them. A hundred different variables are recorded and processed through the artificial intelligence engine, then associated with services or actions with the question "how do we adjust maintenance to fit each piece of equipment in the plant?” always in mind.

Another facet of our project is how we transcribe the data that is made available to the technicians. The AI makes many calculations using the sensor data we collect, and the results are posted on a community-based app that’s available to everyone working on site. The dam uses this social network to express its needs, and the technicians can react on the app and in doing so document and digitize all of the activity that’s going on. This leads to a kind of digital health record for the dam, which is maintained by the technical teams together. Also, the news feed includes all the information needed to carry out the right actions at the right time.

What are the most innovative aspects of your project?

Our innovation is to have redesigned the entire way technicians respond to maintenance issues in an industrial system by making the system itself request what it needs. This is a reversal of the traditional process where the technicians have to check on the state of the system.

The challenge within this is about turning data into action. Data is first collected, then transformed and finally used to suggest an action based on how it was interpreted.

We are innovative because we do all of this at the same time in an accessible way, which we’ve demonstrated through the collaboration with SHEM. The project started in July 2017 and now, less than 8 months later, their small and medium power dams are all connected. Our method can be implemented very quickly and lead to a significant ROI.

Why exhibit at Vivatech with ENGIE?

For us, Vivatech is a showcase where industry players and solutions come together. We want to show that our innovation yields tangible results.

Being there with ENGIE shows that our solution has convincing outcomes. With what’s currently going on in data manipulation, you need to demonstrate how doing so results increased production capacity. In 8 months, we helped achieve a nearly 15% increase in production capacity, a significant gain!

The message we want to convey is that data innovation is already operational and that it is an important, transformative area of innovation. An industrial site that wants to rethink their model will be interested in what we present and our work with ENGIE is proof of that.

We’re also hoping to make many other kinds of connections at Vivatech, other leaders of renewable energy business units at ENGIE as well as other companies, whether in energy or not, like Vinci, the SNCF or Airbus. For a startup, getting access to a major company is quite difficult. This kind of event is a good way to increase visibility and get our name out there, and if ENGIE can help us do that, then it’s fabulous.

Lastly, what does the future hold for you?

For us, the future will be augmented! Work being done on data, artificial intelligence and connected objects will be used to augment human beings and help us make informed decisions.
These technologies are able to incorporate and interpret more variables much more quickly than human beings can. However, what makes humans unique is our capacity to contextualize, make connections, and ultimately to make decisions.

Read more about OptimData