Twitter Down: #Olympics to Blame?


Today, look social networkers across the globe were unable to access their Twitter accounts for the second time in just over a month.  Initial stories pointed towards a possible link to the 2012 Olympics which start tomorrow (7/27).   The notion seemed very possible as earlier this week, a twitter spokesperson told the Associated Press (AP), “There were more tweets about the 2012 Olympics on a single day last week than there were during the entire Beijing Games.”  However, it has since been confirmed that the downtime is a result of something greater than the mass volume of #Olympics tweets.

According to the AP, the outage was due to a double failure in its data centers.  Twitter’s services rely on two parallel systems (when one fails, the other takes over).  However, today Twitter’s redundant setup experienced failure with both systems, making the widely used social media service unavailable for two hours.  On June 21, Twitter experienced a similar outage which was caused by “a cascading bug in one of our infrastructure components.”  No comments have been made linking these two instances.

DOE and Software Developers are Driving Energy Saving Tools


The U.S. Energy Department’s Apps for Energy competition is offering $100, in prizes to software developers for the best new apps that help utility customers make the most out of their Green Button electricity usage data. Green Button is an open standard for sharing electricity data that will be available to millions of utility customers. Understanding energy usage is at the pinnacle of making better informed energy decisions and reducing costs.

Having easy-to-use and understandable insight into energy usage puts the power back into the consumer’s hands, literally. Saying that I used 50 kilowatts of power last month on my utility bill is not useful. This lack of meaningful information from utilities has launched a new industry known as Home Energy Management Systems (HEMS). These systems offer consumers an energy management tool that is tailored to their particular lifestyle. And, thanks to some very creative folks in the industry, many of these tools are very user-friendly.  One software tool in particular from EcoDog can not only show you where you’re using energy and how to save dollars, they’re app can show you how much money you’d save installing solar or predict how much it will cost you to run your electric vehicle. Very cool!

The Smart Grid is a brave new world for utilities and thanks to open standards, developers will be instrumental in creating useful tools to help us understand energy usage better and positively change our behaviors.

Yep, there’s an app for that…now, if I could just move to the next level in Angry Birds!

PJ Jennings

Rules of (Customer) Engagement


#1 If a business has a story to tell, public relations is the way to tell it.

#2 If a business doesn’t have a story to tell—it does, or else it wouldn’t be in business—see #1.

Every business has something to sell and every CEO wants traffic in the door. Educating reporters and consumers about your business’s product/technology/service is vital to customer adoption (sales). The more the press understands what you do and the context in which you do it, they will be more apt to mention the business in relevant (and repeated) articles.

Of course, many executives don’t have the time nor the specific resources to become a media guru and that’s where PR comes in. Public relations is the practice of learning and listening to clients’ stories and then taking those golden message nuggets to the appropriate audiences. New product launch? Check. Customer wins? Check. New CEO? Check. Regardless of whether a company is B2B or B2C, it’s important that the company’s messages are clear and reinforced in the minds of the right people.

From news releases and case studies to contributed articles and interview opportunities and social media campaigns, there are many ways to build a steady stream of excitement around your brand.  There’s no one-size-fits-all; the right approach is the one that meets the communication goals of the company.

We want all businesses to know that PR is not only applicable to them, but an important component in increasing sales.  Maybe a podcast is the right touch. Maybe the cover of a targeted trade magazine will get you in front of your prospects. Certainly, coverage in The New York Times wouldn’t hurt! Wherever you are in your communications efforts, it’s never too late (or early) to get public relations specialists involved in communicating your story.  And remember, PR builds your brand – not advertising. So if you want to improve sales, start with a focused PR program.

Whatever you do. . . Push the Green Button!


To meet a recent call to action from President Obama to develop a strategy to assist consumers in lowering their energy costs, several utilities across the country have been compiling customers’ energy usage data and organizing it into a uniform format as a part of the launch of the Green Button initiative.  The program aims to provide more than 15 million households the ability to track, monitor, and better understand their home energy usage in a straight forward, easy to understand layout.  On March 22nd, the White House issued a press release detailing the initiative, as well as several companies involved in advancing the unified Green Button formula to be more useful to home owners as well as applicable to other customer demographics including commercial buildings.

Working with San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E), EcoDog Inc. has developed a Green Button app that can quickly and easily make use of the utility’s data.  The app, which is a scaled down version of the company’s highly sophisticated FIDO home energy management system, allows home owners to take their personal energy consumption data provided by SDG&E’s  Green Button and view energy usage as well as potential energy savings from installing a solar system or charging of an electrical vehicle.  EcoDog’s fully-featured FIDO Home Energy Watchdog is an easy-to-use hardware/software system that shows homeowners exactly how and where they are consuming electricity on a real-time basis with room-by-room detail to achieve typical monthly savings of 15 to 30 percent and more. EcoDog’s FIDO system also offers advanced monitoring of solar and alternative energy generation.

While society has had its sights on becoming more energy efficient for some time, it’s a slow moving process and the first tool needed is education.  Having a firm understanding of your energy usage can allow you to make minor (or major) lifestyle changes that can greatly reduce your energy consumption.  The Green Button initiative gives home owners an introduction to home energy management and is a forward step in understanding energy consumption in a way that is more understandable and actionable.  Finally, it’s getting easier to be green!

Securing the Power Grid and Our Way of Life


There have been many stories of late about securing the grid against cyber threats, terrorism and unplanned outages. However, for most folks, these stories go unnoticed overshadowed by the latest antics of Hollywood actors, politicians or YouTube videos. Granted talking about the electrical grid is not the most glitzy of subjects (I should know, I’ve been talking about power for 20+ years while my friends’ eyes glaze over), but we as a society should be very interested and concerned about our electrical lifeline to the world. A few months back, San Diego had an unexpected blackout in the middle of the day – unexpected as there were no storms or heat waves – just a maintenance worker in a neighboring state pushing the wrong buttons.  Needless to say there was gridlock on local streets as traffic lights went out, gas pumps shut down because there was no power to run them, work stopped and plans for the evening were cancelled. It was an interesting look at human nature – what do we do when the things we take for granted every day are all of sudden unavailable?  Panic. How do I charge my cell phone? Yikes!

Securing the grid against human error and/or more nefarious actions needs to be a priority. Our appetite for energy is not going to go away. In fact, our need for electrical energy is exponentially increasing. It is our lifeline to the world and integral to our daily lives. Both investor-owned utilities (IOUs) and municipal-owned utilities (MOUs) are on the forward path to making the power grid more intelligent. However, the grid cannot be truly smart if it’s not secure. I propose that utilities need to be working on a parallel path in integrating data and communication infrastructure technologies that facilitate a more efficient and faster grid, while embedding security from the customer’s meter to a utility’s data center. Breaching the grid is serious and not only can the operation of the grid be compromised, but customer data as well. See article on “Data breach exposes info on NY utility customers.”  Fortunately, new reliability standards such as the North American Electric Corporation’s Critical Infrastructure Protection (NERC CIP) security guidelines requiring a utility’s cyber assets be protected against threats are a step in the right direction.

Making the grid smart and secure is a must. Our way of life in the 21st century demands it.

What are your thoughts?

PJ Jennings

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