As more and more blockchain projects flood the market, investors have become accustomed to the task of filtering out scam projects from those that actually build on the tech. As Verv founder and CEO Peter Davies puts it, “The most disappointing [thing about cryptocurrency] is the amount of scams drowning out real projects that could have a hugely positive impact on the world.” I managed to get some time with Davies for an interview in which he outlined Verv’s potential impact.
Verv is a blockchain-based system for people to make and save money by trading energy with others in their area, using machine learning AI to automate optimization of the entire process for everyone. Verv uses ERC-20 compliant VLUX tokens as currency on its energy trading system.
“Verv is an all-in-one energy monitoring, control and trading system. Using signal processing and machine learning techniques, it disaggregates energy readings taken from your home’s main lines to determine how much energy each appliance in your house is using. From this information it can predict energy consumption and allows homeowners with solar panels and home batteries to trade energy with other neighbors using the blockchain-based Verv Energy Trading Platform facilitated by VLUX tokens,” Davies explains.
Davies is the founder and CEO of Verv, an energy-trading startup based in England with an already usable home system and years of testing machine learning on their product. Davies is an electrical engineer and former data consultant. He founded Verv under the name Green Running in 2009. At the time, he was focused on the ways in which commercial businesses like hotels and restaurants could reduce their energy use.
Verv’s Home Energy Focus
In 2017, Davies shifted his focus to the home energy market, filing a UK patent for Verv’s blockchain-based P2P energy trading system. Davies wants to bring energy savings to homeowners using blockchain technology and the power of AI.
Artificial Intelligence and Energy Savings
Both of those things are appealing if you’re interested in merging sustainable energy with machine learning capabilities. Since the emergence of smart home energy products like the Nest thermostat, it’s not a surprise that there’s interest in doing so. As for his project, Davies hopes to “improve access to green energy and incentivize the uptake of renewables.” Verv allows homeowners who produce more energy than they consume to trade it in an AI-automated peer to peer (P2P) trading platform running in the background on a smart hub device.
Verv’s trading platform is meant to ensure that homeowners only trade energy when their pricing is competitive with the grid. Sellers never sell for less than they pay to produce energy, while buyers only pay when prices are lower than their normal energy costs. “Our algorithm automates a sort of auction which will ensure this is the case. Over a year, all of these automated trades will result in substantial savings.” P2P trading means homeowners who buy solar panels get a faster return on their investment, he explains.
Predicting Energy Needs
“At Verv we are focused on setting ourselves apart through high frequency sampling of electricity data and applying deep learning AI via our Verv smart hub [IoT device] to generate advanced energy consumption and production forecasts,” says Davies. According to him, these predictions allow for more efficient trading, making green energy more affordable.
AI can make quick decisions about energy that can have a significant impact on peak energy times. As homeowners return from work in the evening, energy demand peaks. Davies explains, “Verv can predict future energy requirements based on previous patterns of use. We could automate the switching off of a customer’s fridge for one hour which, if we turn off enough fridges, could have a big impact on the grid.” As fridges keep their contents cold for up to 24 hours even after they are turned off (as long as they remain closed), this could produce substantial savings with negligible changes to one’s daily habits.
Built on Ethereum, but Centralized
Currently, Verv distributes its AI-automated energy trades as smart contracts on a customized version of the Ethereum blockchain. “Our system uses a proof-of-authority algorithm and runs on private nodes so we reach consensus faster than an international public system,” Davies tells me. While VLUX tokens are decentralized as ERC-20 tokens, its energy trading platform is controlled directly by Verv.
According to Davies, his team “built the platform with flexibility in mind so that we can switch to a more effective system in the future if the need arises. At the moment, Ethereum is Verv’s blockchain of choice due to its global traction, high-caliber team, and flexible, open source software.” This means they’re leaving their options open for a potential switch in the future.
Making AI Learning Affordable and Accessible
Machine learning and AI are often more expensive to deploy than traditional systems. Verv’s low-cost Smart Hub connects homeowners with deep learning AI, lowering costs. Davies tells me, “We’ve gathered a huge amount of data from several years of trials and home testing.” This testing, combined with a low-cost hub, helps get around this frequent barrier to entry.
Meet the Competition: PowerLedger
The most viable competitor, the Australian PowerLedger, offers a similar P2P distributed renewable energy model. PowerLedger tracks energy consumption and trades autonomously, much like Verv does. After a year of testing, PowerLedger is now in trials with some of Australia’s largest energy companies. It raised $20 million in its ICO last year, but the price of its token, POWR, has dropped significantly from a high of around two dollars to $0.31.
While PowerLedger also shows promise, Verv seems to be ahead of the pack, with more years spent on complex machine learning algorithms for home energy use and a readily usable home hub system. Davies explains, “We believe this provides a critical first-mover advantage which will enable accelerated product development and customer acquisition.”
In such a bearish market, it remains to be seen who will survive the current Crypto Winter. Verv’s token pre-sale started on March 20 and runs until May 28, followed by a regular sale ending on May 30. Verv has been running on private funds and multiple government grants and is hoping to raise about $35 million in this sale.
Competition among these energy platforms will hopefully cause all of them to generate even better solutions, ideally leading to an accessible form of renewable energy trading on blockchains worldwide.