Two somewhat unrelated issues can now be solved with a single new technology application. With customers being hesitant to allow contractors or inspectors into their homes and businesses, how do program implementers document and verify items such as model/serial numbers from appliances and HVAC systems? Additionally, data entry errors can cause energy efficiency projects either to not qualify for incentives or to receive an incorrect incentive amount. As program evaluations typically review a sample of projects, a transcription error on an individual project can significantly impact evaluations results. Faced with these separate issues, how can program implementers accurately collect this data? They could rely on the customer to read the numbers correctly and report them to the utility without transposing numbers in a legible form. They could also get the customer to take a picture of a nameplate and email it to the utility. Either method, while feasible, can potentially cause errors as once they are received these data then need to be inserted into the program tracking system.
A tool with Digital Image Recognition (DIR) capabilities can facilitate the transmission of data presented in a standard format. Think of how you deposit checks these days – open an app, login, take a photo and hit submit. However, these tools sometimes have limitations. For instance, they may have difficulty in recognizing some fonts and colored backgrounds, blurry and out of focus images, or images taken in poor light or reflecting too much light. Even though the DIR system captures the images, the data needs to be imported into the tracking system. In a perfect world, a system should be able to collect the data, place it in the correct fields, and prepare it for analysis.
Fortunately, such a system exists. The Document Recognition and Management system (DRM) from ANB Systems allows users to capture, store, and retrieve data in a manner that makes project approvals more timely and increases efficiency. In addition to those capabilities, DRM also has a mobile application that allows either program staff or the customer upload forms or nameplates directly into the system. Once in DRM, the data can be reviewed and then exported through an API into the tracking database. All this is accomplished with minimal manual handling of the data , thus reducing the opportunity for data entry errors.
As the director of an energy efficiency department, program evaluations caused me the most sleepless nights. Inaccurate evaluation results reflect poorly on the organization and could potentially impact cost recovery and performance bonuses. Significant time was spent by the efficiency team in reviewing documents to ensure they met all program requirements. A system like DRM could easily pay for itself through improved program results and a reduced risk of program disallowance.
As the ex-director of the EE group at a major utility, risk avoidance and data accuracy was your primary focus and all systems were built to comply with that objective.
Written by – Michael Stockard
Michael Stockard is an independent consultant at Stockard Energy Advising and is a member of the Advisory Panel at ANB Systems. Michael has over 40 years of experience in the design and implementation of demand-side management programs.