Longer lives, less boring jobs, fewer accidents, more precise medical treatment… Exponents of artificial intelligence (AI) claim this new technology will soon be delivering many benefits to society.

 

But while this may still feel like a way off, many of us are already experiencing the impact of AI in our lives today.

 

AI already all around you

For example, the digital assistant on your phone uses AI to respond to commands and answer your queries. Those Netflix and Spotify recommendations use AI to learn your tastes.

 

Even online customer support functions are increasingly manned by computers using AI, rather than a real person. And video games such as Call of Duty make significant use of AI in game play development.

 

Analysts believe we’ll see the roll out of AI to many areas of life far faster than previous major life-changing developments, predicting an AI ‘revolution’ that’s likely to be ten times faster, 300 times the scale and have 3,000 times the impact of the introduction of computers.

 

Indeed, it’s believed AI is set to make a major difference in almost every sector – and in energy in particular.

 

Using AI to save 10% of UK energy

Already National Grid is looking at ways that AI could help to improve transmission efficiency on the power network.

 

Balancing supply and demand is becoming ever more challenging with the growth of more renewable and distributed generation. But in collaboration with DeepMind, Google’s AI company, National Grid is considering a predictive model using algorithms that can better anticipate surges in demand or instances of oversupply.

 

According to DeepMind’s CEO, this technology could “save 10% of the country’s energy usage without any new infrastructure, just from optimisation.”

 

Saving 40% on data cooling

Already, last year, we reported on some impressive energy savings DeepMind had achieved at Google’s data centres around the world.

 

By applying machine learning, DeepMind was able to reduce the amount of energy used for cooling (a vital function for a data centre and one that’s hard to optimise) by up to 40%. (You can read more in the original blog here.)

 

The growth of intelligent buildings

Machine learning – albeit on a far less sophisticated scale – is already in use in many Building Management Systems.

 

For many years, these systems have been monitoring the temperature within the building and outside, and calculating when to turn the heating or cooling systems on to ensure the building is at an agreed temperature for the start of the working day.

 

A BMS learns and becomes more accurate as time passes, saving energy and thereby money. But the use of AI within these systems looks set to expand, as the appetite for ‘smart buildings’ grows.

 

The aim is to automate data collection from sensors all over the building that monitor not just temperature, but lighting, power sources, machinery and other functions. The BMS can then make automatic adjustments – or provide insights and recommendations to the building’s Energy Manager.

 

AI is also finding its way into individual pieces of electrical equipment, such as HVAC units, by embedding algorithms that continuously monitor and adjust operations, in real-time, based on current and predicted factors such as building occupancy and performance of other building systems.

 

Getting the basics right first

Of course, you need to have access to the right information before you can make use of AI.

 

Sub-metering and energy monitoring systems can provide you with a platform on which to gain greater insight into energy use – then you can make more intelligent decisions on how to ‘optimise’ that use.

 

DeepMind may be hoping to save the UK 10% in transmission costs. But we find optimising energy using the tools and technologies already at our disposal can save the companies we work with between 10-20% on their overall energy costs.

 

To find out more about making use of today’s technology – as well as how to prepare for tomorrow – do get in touch via your Client Lead (for existing customers) or email us at nBS@npower.com.