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Management Information Systems students turn utility usage data into savings

Like a light bulb turning on over someone’s head, the newest project for the management information systems (MIS) students in the FSU College of Business is a brilliant idea – an idea that includes harnessing the usage data of light bulbs everywhere and sharing it with consumers to save everyone money.

Stephen Payne, a research associate in management information systems, and two of his students, Aaron Gustafson and Matt Terndrup, are working with the city of Tallahassee Utilities to convert utility usage data into real savings for customers and the city.

“Information is power,” says Payne. “Our MIS students are working with an extensive amount of data collected by the city of Tallahassee to develop ways for consumers to become more energy efficient and manage their own utility spending, as well as helping the city to lower its overhead.”

The city of Tallahassee generates its power supply with natural gas, and must supply a specific amount of power each minute of the day - a number referred to as the ”peak load,” or the maximum rate of usage the power plant has ever experienced.

This is where the collected data and the cutting-edge programs, developed by Payne and his MIS students, come into play. To reduce the peak load, the collected data needs to be turned into useful information so consumers can efficiently use energy; thereby reducing the amount of energy expended by the city and saving everyone money.

“We are working to harness the data so customers can manage their utility usage,” said Payne. “For example, imagine how convenient it would be to receive weekly text messages telling you how much money you’ve spent on your utility bill so far in a certain month. This would give you the power to augment your final bill by monitoring your air conditioning, heater, or other appliances to reduce your total bill.”

Not too far in the future is the ability for the user to simply turn off power to specific devices in the home once a certain spending limit is reached – if you cap your bill at $200 for a payment period, you can stop supplying power to your pool pump, or other specified appliance, when you reach your designated amount.

Currently, the city of Tallahassee uses a wireless system to collect meter readings for each of its customers, and Payne’s students are including this in their development plans, streamlining current processes and allowing for more targeted and efficient maintenance saving the City, and eventually the customer, even more money.

“The city of Tallahassee is extremely advanced,” said Payne. “This type of data and information is unique; there are no precedents for this type of technology – we’re creating it.”

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