5-Minute Chatbot Session With Keith Lehman
We’re fortunate enough to have the CTO and Co-Founder of Brightmerge, Keith Lehman, tell us more about how Brightmerge is a game-changer. With over 16 years working in AI and Machine Learning for companies such as Tokyo Electric Power, China Light and Power, Microsoft, and Bank of America, Keith brings in deep industry knowledge and a strong technical background to the team.
Can you give us the elevator pitch for Brightmerge?
Brightmerge is developing a SaaS platform that allows microgrid designers and project financiers to rapidly and confidently determine the optimal microgrid design for their site. We are driving down the cost, time, and effort required to identify the optimal design.
What does economic optimization mean, and what are the benefits to the customer?
Economic optimization refers to maximizing benefits while minimizing the resources used to produce those benefits. Systems that utilize the principles of economic optimization are systems that provide the most value at the lowest cost. Usually, this means that the systems create less waste. In the case of a microgrid, it means that the electricity users – a building or factory, for example – use more of the electrical energy to create value and loose less of the energy, or they use more of the energy from renewable resources than from polluting resources since the “fuel” cost for renewables is essentially 0.
What are some advantages of bringing two companies based in different countries together to commercialize a product?
The modern economy is global, and innovation is occurring everywhere. The greatest advantage is that working across boarders forces us to adopt a global perspective from day one. We are both small, scrappy, startups – and yet we are working together to propose and win contracts in Africa, the US, Israel, and the E.U. We’re able to do this because, to meet the requirements for our respective local markets, we’ve had to build
One example of how this perspective plays out is in the product requirements. The Israeli electrical market, for example, is much simpler than in the U.S. Still, since we are designing the product for both markets, we have had to build in the ability to model U.S. tariffs while the product is still in an early alpha stage. In a similar vein, due to Israel’s proximity to the E.U., Israeli developers are more conscious of the more stringent E.U. privacy laws, and design and build their products accordingly.
What is the product both companies are developing?
We are working together to create a Software as a Service (SaaS) solution that identifies the optimal architecture for microgrid solutions at our customer’s locations. We do this with an interface that makes it very easy to specify your business objectives and input the data that you have. Our A.I. does the rest – it constructs a model and, using the lessons learned from looking at tens of thousands of microgrids, efficiently identifies the most appropriate architectures. The A.I. then simulates variations of those architectures to predict both the operational and the financial performance you can expect them to achieve. Finally, the system provides the user with a report that describes the microgrid and includes all of the technical details that developers need to finalize their plans.
Microgrids are complex, and the regulatory, tariff, and incentive program rules are too. They are too complicated for all but the best engineers to understand how everything works together, so many projects fail due to contradictory or competing goals and regulations or due to an overly simplified analysis of the plan. Since engineering is expensive, developers will take short cuts. One of the most common is to design based on a typical day, for example. We’ve built an expert in a box with enough data, memory, and computational strength to avoid the common pitfalls and hone in on the optimal plan.
Can you describe each company’s unique expertise and the benefits each brings to the table?
Dynamic Grid is one of the leading A.I. companies with a really deep understanding of how to model complex decision making. We hear a lot these days about “big data.” This typically means performing statistically analyzing large amounts of data to identify the patterns. Financial companies, for example, look at your purchase patterns and then ask questions like, “Does this particular purchase fit your purchasing patterns?” If the answer is no, the company flags the unusual transaction as possible fraud.
We do this by modeling the larger system, and not simply the data patterns. By working with Dynamic Grid, we’re able to answer a whole different category of questions. While we are not in the financial services, it’s as if you could ask your credit card company, “Which purchase will work best for me?”
Brightmerge comes more from the industry application side of things. Our founders have been deeply involved in energy and energy management global product, application, and market development for decades, so we understand what the industry needs. We are intimately familiar with the data and processes that developers use when making their decisions. We have also been building applications and understand the demanding requirements that customers have when purchasing SaaS software.
We’ve been working together now for a year and a half, and I have to say that as someone who has been running SaaS product development teams for close to 20 years (as long as SaaS has been around), I could not have asked for a better partner. Our two organizations complement each other exceptionally well, and I look forward to working with each Introspective for a long time.
Who is the target customer, and what problem is the project going to solve?
The typical Brightmerge customer is an EPC or project development organization with annual revenues above $15,000,000/year. We’ve worked with organizations as small as a few million per year, as well as global corporations with revenues in the billions and managing assets in the hundreds of billions. We’re still early enough that we are working hard to identify our sweet spot. Smaller companies are nimble and hungry, so they adopt newer technologies more readily than larger companies. On the other hand, the larger companies have correspondingly larger portfolios, so they place a much greater value on our services.
All of these companies have one thing in common: they understand the long-term value of using microgrid solutions to meet their customer’s electrical needs but know that consumers need to be confident that their designs are optimal, and their electricity costs are minimal. With our software platform, they can accomplish those goals far more efficiently than by using conventional engineering approaches.
Introspective Systems Introduces Unlimited Vacation Policy for Employees
Portland Maine, February 12, 2020 — Introspective Systems announced today that as part of its commitment to creating a proactive, employee-centered work environment for its employees, the company had adopted an unlimited vacation policy effective immediately.
Susan Ruhlin, Vice President of Operations, said that the company had been considering it for about a year and decided to make it official this week as the company anticipates multiple job openings over the next few months.
“We’re in the software business, which means that we’re in the people business,” said Ruhlin, “we wanted to show our team and potential future employees that we care about them holistically.”
The Company, which specializes in the power industry including utility controls, microgrid controllers, and edge device software, is one of only a few in Maine to offer unlimited vacation time. Introspective Systems’ full benefits package includes paid sick, volunteer, personal, and holiday time along with health, dental, and vision insurance. Additionally, they provide paid parking and flexible work schedules along with other perks.
“We want to be a progressive company in everything we do, so we need to attract talent that shares our core values,” said Kay Aikin, CEO. “We think that investing in the wellbeing of our current and future employees is the key to our success.”
About Introspective Systems
Introspective Systems is a leading technology company headquartered in Portland, Maine. Using our patented xGraph software, we can distribute intelligence to the edge of the grid, enabling better operational management of distributed energy resources. Our solutions optimize grid performance, which leads to better efficiency, improved resiliency, and lower costs to consumers. The AI-driven algorithms in our microgrid controls, gateways, and edge devices, are transforming the energy marketplace to power a people-centered grid for a cleaner, greener future. For more information, visit Introspective Systems.com.
A Letter From the CEO, Kay Aikin
Dear Friends of Introspective Systems,
Last December, I was filled with the kind of optimism that comes when you feel like you’re on the verge of something great happening. I had good reason to feel that way. We had grown the IS team to 12 enormously talented individuals, added key projects to our pipeline, secured funding from the BIRD Foundation, and Caryl didn’t yet have a cancer diagnosis. I looked forward to 2019, but as the new year unfolded, everything changed.
One Thursday morning in January, Caryl started acting strangely, she couldn’t seem to find her words and didn’t come down to play pool, something she did daily. An ambulance trip to the hospital and a flurry of diagnostic tests revealed the cause, a brain tumor. The next day she had surgery, and on Monday, literally, 72 hours after having a brain tumor removed, she was back to work. Typical Caryl. Later we would learn the cause of the tumor, cancer.
For ten months, Caryl faced her disease with a steely resolve that seemed reserved for superhumans. She didn’t complain about her treatment regimen, never said why me, and still worked over 40 hours a week. I think she did this because people were so important to her. You might think the work itself drove her dedication, but it was always about the people. She always wanted her technology to improve the lives of others, and in many significant ways, it did. Building better seismic monitoring systems, improved cervical cancer detection, and reduced carbon emissions through renewable energy optimization, are just a few of the ways she accomplished this.
You might think with Caryl’s passing that I shouldn’t be feeling particularly optimistic about our company in 2020, but that is not true. This year will mark our first international grid deployments actively growing our markets and driving sales in several countries. Our strategic partnerships with W. Giertsen Energy Solutions and Kilowatt Labs have significantly helped drive our technology adoption, and very soon, we’ll share some exciting updates on our progress with our Israeli partner, Brightmerge. The result of this work will necessitate hiring more people, so our team will continue to grow, and we’re very excited by that prospect.
In closing, I am reminded of timber farmers who plant trees, often knowing that they won’t be alive to harvest them but do it to sustain future generations. Caryl had a vision to solve the greatest problems, and she gave us a framework to do just that. We are dedicated to fulfilling her legacy. Caryl will never be far from my heart, but her vision will continue to guide this company into the future.
Best wishes for a healthy and happy 2020.
Grid Evolution in Europe
There is much discussion in America about the electrical grid’s evolution. In fact, in the last week of July, Dr. Johnson and I went to a conference put on by the Smart Electric Power Alliance called Grid Evolution. Here in America however, we often think that nothing else is happening in the rest of the world. That is very untrue and on our trip to Norway just after the SEPA Grid Evolution summit, we explored some of the interesting things happening in Europe.
Eurelectric, a trade association much like SEPA, published an analysis of dynamic pricing in the electricity supply in European countries and surprisingly or perhaps not surprisingly they are ahead of us in many ways. One of the takeaways from what we learned is the emphasis in many countries for rapidly changing how their electricity markets work and passing dynamic pricing (including Time-of-use (TOU), Critical peak pricing (CPP) and Real-time pricing (RTP) to the retail customer. Euroelectric also suggests using smart meters to great effect, changing the balance on non-energy components to the electrical bill (think the meter charge) and making those prices dynamic.
These suggestions are all ways that the pricing of electricity can be more transparent, allow market innovation and provide for opportunities for the consumer to incentivized to provide value to the grid and with providing value they can see their electricity bill decrease. This will provide for greater uptake of energy storage, solar and other renewable technologies to green the grid.
Another take away is how much adoption of dynamic pricing is already in individual countries. For instance, in Finland, 10% of customers are on dynamic pricing. In Spain, roughly 50% of consumers are on a tariff plan that floats the price based upon a reference price calculated nationally. In Norway, virtually 100% of the electricity delivered in the market is based upon direct spot pricing with hourly metering for those with smart meters and an average for those without. These countries provide a great opportunity for our technology especially in the small commercial and industrial sectors.
With a partner in Norway, we are exploring providing power for Norwegian islands and providing systems to power cruise ship docks so the cruise ships can turn off their diesel engines saving up to 100 tons of carbon per ship per day while in port. Our controls will be coupled with Kilowatt Labs energy storage, (another partner) and the expertise our Norwegian partner has in energy systems to make energy systems that are superior to anything else in the market.
US-Israel Companies Partner to Take Renewable Energy Microgrids into the AI and Machine Learning Age
The commercialization project marks the international collaboration between two technology companies to advance the performance of microgrids.
PORTLAND, ME – July 19, 2019 – Introspective Systems, LLC announced today that it has finalized its contract with the Binational Research and Development Foundation to begin a commercialization project with its Israel-based partner, Brightmerge. The companies will leverage their areas of expertise to create an end to end AI-based data solution for Microgrid design, development, and operations.
“The process of developing microgrids can be costly. It begins with a feasibility study reaching hundreds of thousands in dollars, even before any design, procurement, and installation.” said CEO Kay Aikin, “Moreover, those feasibility studies are filled with disclaimers and closing the gaps of uncertainty is crucial. Microgrid designs are unique and therefore it is difficult to scale-up the process of those studies without the use of technology.”
Daniel Schwab, Founder, and CEO of Brightmerge stated: “After spending almost 20 years in the renewable energy industry, it has been clear to me for a long time that microgrids are the architecture of the future energy system.”
“We are at the early stages of a complete overhaul of the entire energy system that was based on a 100-year-old design using outdated technologies and methodologies. Brightmerge and Introspective Systems have the industry knowledge and technological know-how to provide seamless solutions that bring entire economies into the digital age of energy,” Schwab said.
According to Bloomberg’s New Energy Outlook Report 2019, released just a few days ago, $13.3 trillion US Dollars will be invested from now until 2050 in solar, wind and other renewable energy systems. That’s about $415 billion each year. Another $11.4 trillion US Dollars will be invested in new transmission and distribution infrastructure. That translates to $356 billion per year. A large portion of these dollars will go to microgrid systems combing generation, controls, and distribution.
Elkana Pressler, Co-Founder, and VP of Business Development for Brightmerge said, “The electricity grid served humanity for over 100 years distributing energy during the fossil fuel era; this era is decaying fast. Transferring energy hundreds of miles from production to consumers is no longer the most financially efficient solution. The current electric transmission system is super expensive to build, operate, maintain and lately, to protect. Microgrids utilize the capability to create energy wherever it is consumed. It might be a community, a campus, commercial center or even residential facilities.”
Keith Lehman, Co-founder, and CTO of Brightmerge believes that’s both companies come in.
“This is exactly where Brightmerge enters the picture. We realize that with the right set of data, machine learning process and AI we can automate most of the feasibility stage and can significantly reduce costs during design,” Lehman said.
“Brightmerge leverages proprietary algorithms and Introspective Systems’ AI-powered energy simulation engine combine to produce a feasibility report faster, cheaper and above all – much more accurately than is currently possible,” Aikin said.
Leman added, “Unlike the current state of the art, we are not satisfied with product specs and static data which leaves too many gaps and uncertainties. We utilize a powerful fusion of dynamic, real-world data with machine learning and system simulations to more accurately predict system performance and Return on Investment.”
“And this is the pain spot,” Schwab said, “without these clear ROI models, it is hard to move forward with financiers in order to realize the full benefits of a Microgrid.”
“Currently we have several premium, paid pilots with large clients that understand the potential of the microgrid revolution. These clients wish to move now instead of waiting and keep losing money,” Pressler said, “this foot on the ground allows us to improve our technology based on real-world results, creating a valuable continuous feedback loop.”
The project is expected to reach alpha stage of development by Q2 2020 with first production versions ready at the beginning of 2021.
About Introspective Systems, LLC
Introspective Systems is the developer of xGraph, a breakthrough software platform that enables developers to build systems, optimize their entire environment of distributed systems, and deploy seamlessly. Designed for complex software ecosystems, xGraph combines edge computing with distributed analytics to speed processing time, enabling companies to scale, adapt to change, and manage large volumes of disparate data efficiently and securely. xGraph is AI-enabled for systems that require autonomous and collaborative decision-making. Companies use xGraph to meet the challenges of complexity in environments including healthcare, IoT, energy, and science. Learn more at IntrospectiveSystems.com.
Brightmerge develops an online cloud-based expert system that accurately and automatically/semi-automatically predicts a microgrid system’s energy and financial performance. The platform integrates data sets in one platform and automates decision making using ranking and optimization algorithms to choose the best components, suppliers, and contractors for each project. The company opened a fund round of $___ to complete the product and drive first sales.