Blog: Washington D.C., an active test bed for IoT, Technology, & Innovation (Q3 2018)

- Collin Smith, AEG Fellow               

On Thursday, September 27, Advanced Energy Group will hold its third stakeholder breakfast series of the year. This time around, the discussion will be on IoT, Innovation & Technology, a dynamic subject that touches a wide-ranging array of fields that extend far outside the energy sector. Washington D.C. is one of numerous cities across the country that are racing to take advantage of the potential improvements from Internet of Things (IoT) technology that will impact different parts of the city’s ecosystem.

As is often the case in Washington, the government plays a significant role. The federal government owns 43 million square feet of building space in the DC metropolitan area, and in recent years it has taken steps to make these buildings “smarter.” The General Services Administration (GSA) - the government agency that oversees its property assets - has installed 675 advanced energy meters in 81 government buildings. Using a software called GSALink, the GSA can use data from these meters and other sensors to measure gas, energy, and water usage conditions in all of its buildings and automate building responses like light switches or temperature adjustments. Initial estimates indicated that this initiative saved $7 million in energy costs, but complications in the program’s implementation and accounting mean that overall savings are uncertain.

Federal government buildings are not the only structures in DC that are now equipped with advanced energy meters. Thanks to a multi-year initiative by Pepco, smart meters are now installed at almost all of the buildings that Pepco serves. Working with the smart technology services company Itron, Pepco has developed a program in which the utility installs an internet-connected thermostat at the home of participating customers, free of charge. Pepco then uses these IoT devices to cycle customers’ air conditioning during times that the electricity grid is stressed by high demand. In exchange, those customers receive a credit on their electricity bill. Since the program was introduced in 2009, Pepco has installed over half a million IoT devices and reduced over 400 MW of demand during peak hours.

The local government in Washington is also working to support the development of IoT technology in the District. Much of this work is done out of the Office of the Chief Technology Officer (OCTO), a branch of the DC Mayor’s Office that develops, implements, and maintains the city’s technology infrastructure. One of the major IoT initiatives the office has been involved in is PA 2040, an initiative launched in 2016 that aims to build the image of what the city’s west Pennsylvania Avenue corridor (between 17th and 20th Streets, NW) might look like in 2040. The goal is to implement a host of IoT and other advanced technologies that improve things like parking demand management, wayfinding, street lighting, and emergency response management. In the pilot phase of the project, fiber-optic upgrades and Wi-Fi nodes for a smart lighting network have been installed in the area.

Not all IoT developments in DC are led by top-down initiatives. The city also has a vibrant start-up scene working on deploying these technologies. Two notable companies are Senseware and Aquicore, both of which provide IoT products that improve building owners’ ability to manage energy use and other elements of the facilities they manage. Both companies were in the top 25 of Builtworlds’ list of the Top 50 Building Tech companies in 2018, indicating that these DC-based companies are gaining recognition on a national level.

In the interconnected world of IoT, data from one sector can often improve operations in a different one, meaning that the benefits of collaboration are multiplied. Conversely, this heightened interconnection increases the vulnerabilities to cyber attacks. With so much happening in DC's IoT space, making sure that all the different players are aware of and communicating effectively with each other becomes a challenge. This is a challenge that Advanced Energy Group is hoping to tackle, by bringing experts and stakeholders from different parts – including utilities, government, start-ups, and Fortune 500 companies – to meet and discuss developments in the industry. The upcoming stakeholder breakfast offers a unique chance to hear both the broad array of IoT initiatives happening in the District and a focused conversation on how various initiatives are – or can be – applied to the energy sector.

To request an invitation, visit this page.

Discussion Leaders include:

  • Bryan Clark, Director, Utility of the Future, Pepco Holdings

  • Jeffrey Johnson, CIO, Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC)

  • Thomas Willie, CEO, Blue Pillar, Inc.

  • Bill Meehan, Director of Utility Solutions, Esri

  • Brad Williams, Vice President, Industry Strategy, Oracle Utilities

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Advanced Energy Group is a stakeholder member-supported organization committed to developing and delivering advanced energy policies and solutions in key cities.  Stakeholder sessions are by invitation only.  For details of our programming please visit:

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