Blog #1: Two weeks in at Ping Things!

Two weeks have flown by at Ping Things. 

I never worked at a fully remote company before, and I have to admit it was strange to meet a lot of new people virtually. There have been a few “lunch and learn” and “team building” sessions to get to know people. This “contact” has been both educational from a work and career perspective and also enjoyable from an intrapersonal level as we live in these uncertain times. 

Ping Things is the first startup I have ever worked for. They have a really talented and intelligent team; the atmosphere is really inspiring, and the communication process is really efficient. 

It’s been very enjoyable attending daily meetings where a crazy amount of information is exchanged in 15 minutes (or often less). Everyone seems to be connected and on the same level despite the fact that most people never really met each other in person. Ping Things has shown me how important it is to create a positive and welcoming work environment with fluent communication flow among teams. This can have a significant impact on success. I have witnessed many leadership role model moments already.

This first week involved a lot of readings about Ping Things and the energy market. This made me realize that for all my life, I have been just a utility consumer, and I never realised how much we don’t think about how we receive electricity, risks, and potentials behind grids.

I am involved in a project called the National Infrastructure for Artificial Intelligence on the Grid (NI4AI), which Ping Things has won federal funding (and more) for. 

(https://ni4ai.org/about)

Data has historically been used to simply bill consumers, yet this project is introducing the fact that data has infinite potential to the world. By making the data accessible to a wider audience, including academia, this data can be used not just to enhance technologies and efficiencies, but to mitigate many issues such as wildfires and CO2 emissions.

While I personally see only positive effects from this use of AI, it is interesting to learn that there are some controversies around its use. Fear towards smart meters and smart grids seem quite common. I watched a webinar held a few months ago, and one of the questions from the audience was about the concern towards “AI taking people’s jobs”. 

 

(https://www.telegraph.co.uk/money/consumer-affairs/six-reasons-say-no-smart-meter/)

 

(https://www.vox.com/2016/6/29/12038074/power-utilities-suck)

I also learnt that while utility consumers want greener energy, current utility business models are not designed to accommodate smart grids. Instead, current business models are designed to build more old fashioned infrastructure, which is not necessarily the best for consumers or the environment. In addition, there seems to be a culture among utilities, especially investor-owned, being hesitant to share data. 

I have been in a lot of conversations with researchers, innovative people and organizations trying to reduce these obstacles. I am aching to help find more ways to progress this outreach in the coming weeks.