POWBAL is an innovative energy demand management study co-ordinated by the Imperial College Business School and the Grantham Institute of Climate Change. Participants are provided with domestic smart plugs and usage incentives on the understanding that the devices can be remotely controlled. Analysis and understanding of consumer attitudes to power consumption are intended to inform the development of relevant policy, including effective incentives for energy conservation.
The first iteration of the POWBAL technology platform was developed by a third-party software company but was not considered a suitable long-term solution for technical and functional reasons. The College’s Research Computing Service was commissioned by Dr Ralf Martin (leader of the project at Imperial) to deliver a sustainable re-implementation according to software engineering best-practice and well-integrated with the College's technology infrastructure. The schedule was ambitious, based on enrolling study participants at the busiest time of the academic year.
The RSE team worked in collaboration with Dr Martin and the College’s ICT department to deliver the project on schedule and within budget following an iterative development strategy that involved the project PI at every stage. The new system prioritised security, maintainability, and durability in addition to providing an intuitive user interface for study participants. At the time of writing it has successfully logged over 500,000 energy readings for analysis by the POWBAL team - transforming a project proposal into a working solution within a matter of weeks.
Dr Ralf Martin, Associate Professor of Economics, Imperial College Business School and POWBAL PI:
"The Research Computing Service provided us with a welcome alternative to third-party software development: offering face-to-face support, long-term continuity and a thorough understanding of our requirements. The solution they delivered exceeded our expectations and has proved a solid foundation for our research study. We highly value the RSE team's contribution to the POWBAL project."