International Conference on Information Systems panel

We have a panel at the International Conference on Information Systems  titled, “Energy Informatics: Designing a Discipline (And possible lessons for the IS community)”, and we  invite you to comment on the questions the panel will address.

Focus of the panel
The panel will address the following question: If we were to design a new scientific field with a clean slate perspective, what might be the outcome?

Questions for discussion
The panel will address key questions that it thinks should be considered by those designing a new discipline. Specifically, they will address the following critical questions with regard to Energy Informatics.

How do you enhance research community effectiveness?
Starting with the assumption that a science must ultimately serve humanity, we need to decide what social value a science should create, as this is how you can assess its effectiveness. Comments may include answers to two subquestions: (a) What societal value should Energy Informatics create and what are possible measurable societal outcomes? (b) What are potential mechanisms to increase Energy Informatics community effectiveness and how can we design information systems to support them?

How do you enhance research community efficiency?
Research is a cumulative process, and scholars need efficient mechanisms for discovering what is known or has been created to build upon prior knowledge when tackling new problems. Much of what we know is buried within the text of journal articles rather than codified for machine searching. What are potential mechanisms to increase Energy Informatics community efficiency and how can we design information systems to support them?

What are the central activities and key resources?
A science has a set of key skills and resources that participants deploy to answer the central problem that the science addresses. For instance, at this stage, we have a few established courses and research programs in Energy Informatics. What is the content of an Energy Informatics course for undergraduate or masters students? What skills do Energy Informatics researchers need?

How do you assess an effective contribution?
Academics gains recognition in several ways, including publication in reputable peer-reviewed journals, acceptance of papers at prestige conferences, grants, and citation counts. These often become counting rather than evaluation mechanisms. How do we create an effective and reliable system for evaluating scientific work that also ensures that participants in the creation and evaluation process are appropriately rewarded?

These questions follow directly from the panel’s contention that a new field should make every endeavor to avoid accepting legacy systems as an appropriate infrastructure for conducting research in today’s world.

We seek your comments.

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Carbon taxes


Two recent reports provide some encouraging news on the cost of implementing a carbon tax.

A Planet Money report suggests that a carbon tax would cost US residents a little more than a USD 1 per day and stimulate economic growth.

A study of the aviation industry indicates that the cost of carbon offsets would be less than 0.5 percent of airline revenues. The rise in ticket prices would be between USD 2.6 and 15.9, which is less than most current airport taxes.

While the financial costs are encouraging, it is clear that many politicians still don’t have the courage or will to make sensible decisions about sustainability. For example the leader of the right wing opposition party in Australia, where an election will be held this September, has stated that his first priority is to repeal Australia’s carbon tax.



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Energy Informatics conference


The second Energy Informatics conference will be in held in Atlanta on October 6th. Check out the program, and you will soon realize that this is a great opportunity to get to the leading edge on Energy Informatics.

I look forward to meeting you on Oct 6th.


Rick Watson

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Energy Informatics 2012 (EI2012)

Call for papers

We invite you to submit your research or practical papers to the second Conference on Energy Informatics (EI2012) to be held on October 6th, 2012, in Atlanta, Georgia, at the Terry Executive Education Center.

Energy Informatics is concerned with the analysis, the design, the implementation, and the use of systems to increase the efficiency of energy demand and supply systems. It is based on the recognition that flow networks, in their various forms (e.g., electricity, air, water, etc.), are the major suppliers and consumers of energy, and their efficiency can be improved by collecting and analyzing appropriate information to optimize their performance. Energy informatics can be succinctly represented by the equation:

Energy + Information < Energy

The goal of this conference is to engage both academic and industry in a dialogue that examines how energy informatics can be applied to many areas, such as the smart grid, fleet logistics, traffic management, built environment, water resource, and others.

Papers co-authored by academic and industry partners are particularly welcome, along with case studies showing the application of energy informatics.

All submissions will be refereed by at least two reviewers. Authors of accepted papers will be required to register for and attend the conference personally to present their papers.

Important dates

Paper submissions by July 1st, 2012

Acceptance decisions by August 1st, 2012

Conference on October 6th, 2012


Cost $75

Registration & additional information available at: 

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Georgia Energy Informatics Cluster

On Wednesday, November 9th, we had the kickoff meeting to establish the Georgia Energy Informatics Cluster. The meeting was held in Atlanta. The program is shown at the end of this post.

The meeting went very well, and there were a number of significant outcomes:

  • An industry group will start a regular monthly meeting
  • A group has been put together to run a trade show in spring
  • We have a team assembled to run a conference, Energy Informatics 1, in fall



To bring together a group of companies and other parties that can benefit from and contribute to the creation of an Energy Informatics cluster in Georgia.

What is Energy Informatics?

Energy Informatics is an emerging sub-discipline of Information Systems, based on the concept that: Energy + Information < Energy. From the developing smart grid to fleet logistics (and many diverse topics in between), professionals in the field recognize that the optimization of flow networks is the key to greater energy efficiency and an improved bottom line.

8:00 Registration
8:30 Opening Kevin Petersen, Senior Vice President, AT&T – Digital Life Services
8:45 Viewpoint from the Public Service Commission Tim Echols, Public Service Commission
9:00 Creating the Georgia Energy Informatics Cluster Rick Watson, UGA
9:15 Energy Innovation: Some Perspectives Sandra Neuse, Assistant Vice Chancellor, University System of Georgia Wes McDowell, Vice President CIO, Georgia Region Southern Company Mark Davidson, UPS Telematics Research & Development
10:15 Break Refreshments provided courtesy of AT&T
10:45 Action at the University Level Tom Lawrence, UGA Maric Boudreau, UGA Doug Noonan, GA Tech Clint Mays, Southern Polytechnic State University
11:15 Open Forum on the Future of the Energy Informatics Cluster Lead off comments by: Greg Chambers, E3 Greentech Brian Crow, VP of Sales and Business Development, Verdeeco
11:55 Closing Comments
12:00 Finish
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Energy Informatics portable lab

We recently took delivery of an Energy Informatics portable lab donated by E3 GreenTech to the Energy Informatics group at University of Georgia for teaching and research.

You can remove the electrical outlets and place them around a home, say, and plug devices into them. Each outlet sends a data stream of power, temperature, and occupancy every few secs to the router and hence to a server. A rules engine at the server end processes the data and takes action (e.g., turn off a device, raise the thermostat). The beauty of the kit is that it can be used by students in a variety of settings to learn about creating and processing data streams to reduce energy consumption.

We will develop some exercises for students to undertake as part of a course on Energy Informatics.

Energy Informatics lab


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An Internet of “energy” things

Much as been written about the Internet of things, and everyone of these things consumes energy, even if it is only the energy to communicate via the Internet. To improve energy efficiency, we need everyone of these things to be able to report its energy usage dynamically and also to be remotely controlled.

If we had details of dynamic energy usage of all Internet things then energy managers would have the information they need to identify energy hogs and implement programs to reduce energy consumption. If we knew which things could be turned off during periods of peak usage, demand response systems could be more responsive.

National governments and standards organizations need to be working towards ensuring that all Internet connected things are also energy reporting and remote controllable  things. The additional information and control will greatly enhance the global drive towards energy efficiency and the consequent reductions in CO2 emissions.


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Smart phones: The potential information engines of the smart world

A recent article titled, “Increasing fuel efficiency with a smartphone,” highlights the flexibility and value of portable information appliances. Researchers at MIT have created a network of dashboard-mounted phones that collects data on traffic lights and tell drivers how to avoid inefficient stopping and starting. The technology helps reduce fuel consumption by 20 percent, which is very impressive given the number of cars in the world and the energy they consume.

The smartphone, the computer you always have with you, has the potential to become the information engine of the smart world. It is the foundation for a portable sensing device because of the built-in GPS, camera, and multiple sensors (e.g., accelerometer, gyroscope, proximity, and ambient light). The tens of millions of smartphones can become  a massive sensor network that reports the current state of the environment. The beauty of this network is that it costs almost nothing to implement other than the creation of the apps to sense what is happening and the processing by associated information systems of the smartphone generated data streams.  Many of the costs are already being borne by the smart phone owner, who has purchased the phone and paid for a data plan. As in the referenced example, the processing may well be done by the smart phone, which further reduces the costs of creating smart phone based sensor systems.

To see other scholars views on the use of smart phones for advancing environmental sustainability, read Pitt, L. F., Parent, M., Junglas, I., Chan, A., & Spyropoulou, S. (2010). Integrating the smartphone into a sound environmental information systems strategy: Principles, practices and a research agenda. The Journal of Strategic Information Systems. doi:10.1016/j.jsis.2010.09.005

To make such sensor systems a reality, two things need to happen. First, we need to create the apps, such as the MIT example, to sense relevant events in the environment. Second, we need to create incentives for a sufficient number of smart phone owners to use these apps to provide the density of information necessary to enable a general community benefit, such as reduced traffic congestion. In the longer run, smart phone manufacturers need to be encouraged to extend the sensing capability of their devices to include  detecting air quality, temperature, and other aspects of the environment that critical to the pursuit of sustainability.

We can build a smart world, one smart phone at a time.


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A dominant logic transition

A dominant logic is the main means by which an organization achieves success. Society moves through periods dominated by a specific logic for organizational success, and we are currently in the service dominant logic era, which means that organizations structure themselves around the problem of delivering superior service to their customers. If we take a historical perspective, we see that the dominant logic of society changes over time and also varies across regions within a particular time period.

Dominant logics

Dominant logics

We see the early signs of the emergence of a new dominant logic for advanced economies. The focus on creating customers will be supplanted by the need to reduce environmental impact because of the accumulated effect of humans on air and water quality, biodiversity, ocean acidity, and other environmentally degrading outcomes. Organizations will need to reorient themselves to reduce their environmental demands, and we already see some industry and government leaders taking steps in this direction.

Decreasing the burning of fossil fuels to create energy is a critical element in reducing environmental impact because the most pressing problem, as acknowledged by the vast majority of scientists, is cutting the CO2 emissions released by such fuels. CO2 emissions contribute to global warming and ocean acidification. Energy efficiency programs reduce CO2 emissions (a societal concern) improve profits or surpluses (an organizational concern), and reduce national dependency on imported oil, natural gas, and coal (a societal concern for many countries).

Now that you are aware of a shift in the dominant logic of business, you'll see more instances of this change. I'd be interested to learn of changes that you observe.


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Climate engineering – too far away and too risky

The recently released technology assessment of climate engineering of the U.S. Government Accounting Office concludes that, “Climate engineering technologies do not now offer a viable response to global climate change.” Many of the proposed geo-engineering solutions rely on untested and immature technologies. Not even the first order consequences are well understood of some proposals, and who can guess what the unintended results might be.

We believe the GAO should focus its attention on developing a US Information Strategy. Information technology, while continually improving, is a mature technology, and we have many Information Systems professionals with extensive experience in designing, developing, and implementing information systems. The great gains in productivity over the last five decades have come from information systems, and the same technology and skills can be used to generate significant energy savings and enable organizations to reinvent themselves as sustainable enterprises.

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