Fat Spaniel Technologies on Wednesday released a platform that will open its energy data to outside applications.
The San Jose, Calif.-based company has technology that monitors the performance of solar-power and other renewable-energy systems and displays the information via a Web-based dashboard. It sells the monitoring and reporting services for a monthly fee.
Now, it has added so-called “application programming interfaces” that will allow other companies to access data about a renewable-energy system and use it for new applications, said Gordon Smith, vice president of marketing and business development at Fat Spaniel.
“It’s a sign of the maturity of the industry that it’s become clear no single vendor can provide an all-encompassing solution for managing these renewable-energy sites,” he said. “We need to provide a framework so that multiple vendors can cooperate.”
Smith said it has become clear that customers with more complex renewable-energy systems need to be able to integrate multiple devices, applications and third-party sources.
The Insight Platform is not open-source software, in that Fat Spaniel isn’t providing its source code and allowing other companies to modify it at will. But the company is providing a standardized interface so that other companies and customers can get data out and put other data in, he said.
For example, a company could decide to add weather data to its dashboard or to add a third-party billing service using data about its energy system, he said.
Or customers might want to take one icon that’s part of a whole screen of data, such as the icon showing the current energy output, and put it on their own Web page, he said.
“It’s a standardized way of interacting with our storehouse of data,” he explained. “It’s really just an enabler of other services to our customers, a way of integrating new devices and data services.”
But the real power of the open platform is that it enables Fat Spaniel to harness the creativity of its partners, rather than having its customers solely dependent on it to create applications, Smith said.
“It will allow a far more comprehensive offering and an offering that can evolve more quickly because there are more people contributing to it,” Smith said.
Fat Spaniel said its Insight Platform is the world’s first open-intelligence platform for energy-data applications.
He likened the idea to the way that hundreds of providers have built applications on top of the Salesforce.com platform.
“Not all the applications are great, but I think customers would rather have a choice of applications than only ones built by Salesforce.com,” he said. “We believe choice is important. … We’re applying IT in a systematic way to renewable-energy systems.”
But it’s unclear if the new platform will bring in more revenue for Fat Spaniel.
Some customers could choose applications developed by Fat Spaniel’s partners over its own applications, and Smith said some of the new applications likely will overlap with its own offerings.
“We may find, in some cases, that customers prefer to use the services of someone else, even though they continue to use our platform,” he said.
Fat Spaniel will still make money by selling its data, but might not make additional money from each of these new applications, he said.
For instance, if a customer – say a company that owns many different sites and charges its customers for their energy usage – is already paying for energy-usage reports, and then wants a third party to use the information for service that will bill its customers based on their energy usage, the customer wouldn’t pay Fat Spaniel any additional money, he said.
But if a customer needs additional data for the new application, it would buy additional service from Fat Spaniel, he said.
The company doesn’t yet know how big the platform part of its business will be, compared with its applications, such as its reporting services, because much of that will be determined by how good the outside applications are, Smith said.
“An innate characteristic of bringing a platform to market is that it’s difficult to determine what types of applications and processes will be built on top of it,” he said. “We want to be surprised by the fruits of the labors of others – and we will be.”
Whether or not the open platform ends up being a major moneymaker, the move will raise the company’s visibility and reaffirm its place as a thought leader in the industry, he said.
“I think it makes Fat Spaniel a more attractive strategic partner for the kind of companies we sell to, including integrators, [power-purchase agreement] service providers, utilities and OEMs,” he said. “People want to partner with a company that is a leader and that shows vision and a clear path forward for the long-term.”
The company already has signed on eight partners to develop applications around its platform.
CH2M Hill is using Fat Spaniel’s data to make a solar mapping capability, while Campbell Scientific is developing weather-related data devices, Smith said. Other partners include Advanced Energy, Echelon, Inovateus Development, PV Powered, SatCon Technology and Solectria.