In this project, BlueMetal partnered with EnerNOC to create a custom operational control center in an extremely short timeframe. In less than two months, the design and development team applied their experience and creativity to completely re-envision the control center. The outcome is an extraordinary interactive user experience that pushes the boundaries of data visualization connected to live energy information.
EnerNOC, a company that provides energy intelligence software and related solutions, aims to redefine the way the world thinks about energy. The company provides a comprehensive suite of demand response applications and services that maintain real-time balance between electricity supply and demand to utilities and grid operators worldwide.
EnerNOC's services also help businesses and organizations save money, earn payments, and support the electric grid by using energy more effectively. The company is a pioneer in using data to understand energy usage and demand, with the goals of reducing costs, mitigating the risk of outages, and "greening the grid."
The company moved its corporate headquarters to the new Innovation District area of Boston in June 2013. To express its revolutionary way of applying business intelligence to energy management, the new location features a next-generation Network Operations Center (NOC), with a large video wall. The wall consists of twenty-four 55" screens with two primary display purposes:
EnerNOC reached out to BlueMetal to partner on the screen visualization design along with supporting technical expertise related to the data and imagery that will be displayed during the customer tour.
The existing NOC had a look and feel that wasn't reflective of the company's current technology with respect to its physical plant, control center displays, and underlying application infrastructure. Much of the data presented on the screens was in a format difficult for visitors— and even some NOC operators— to interpret quickly. To build trust and confidence in prospective customers, and to convey that EnerNOC could be a trusted partner with the technology, capacity and security customers require to handle their complex energy management needs, EnerNOC needed a "more show less tell" approach, where simple visuals would present the company's story ("We make it easy for you..."), while conveying the great depth and sophistication behind those visuals("...but it's not easy to do").
To remove complexity and reduce the data to simple, easy to grasp visualizations, the BlueMetal design team re-imagined the way the data could be shown. For example, instead of showing current temperatures on a map of the United States, they changed the display to show only deviations from the average. Eschewing a red/yellow/green color scheme, the BlueMetal team displayed the data in terms of intensity of tone—where the brightest represented the greatest deviation, and the dimmest represented the least.
To make the wallboard more sleek and visually impressive, the design team pulled the look and feel of the separate displays together, incorporating EnerNOC's branding for a cohesive look across all. Finally, the team worked across the functional areas of the organization to surface and incorporate data sources that had previously been siloed. The wallboard consists of Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF)/Direct2D apps running on two Windows 7 computers with 25 megapixel displays. Realtime streaming from the data sources to the front ends is enabled by ASP. NET MVC SignalR, chosen because it can work with any client over standard network protocols (e.g. HTTP and HTTPS). Data for the wallboard is aggregated from disparate sources and stored to SQL Server in the cloud, where it serves as the primary source of historical information.
An iPad in the main conference room controls the presentation and enables navigation through all screens via a responsive website built on jQuery Mobile and Zurb Foundation. The new EnerNOC wallboard is the centerpiece of the Innovation District office. It blends high fidelity visualizations with real-time data from numerous sources. Its immersive interface tells a narrative about the state of the data and flows the viewer through a sequence of data visualizations that demonstrate the "lifecycle of a piece of data."