BALTIMORE - Remotely piloted robots mingled with hundreds of employees strolling the halls of the Pier 5 Hotel yesterday as Exelon Corporation launched the first in a series of Innovation Expos aimed at bringing together employees and outside experts to explore innovative solutions to complex business problems.
The event focused on ways Exelon can create value by tapping into the burgeoning field of "big data," which describes the ever-expanding volume of data that companies and consumers generate and interact with every day.
Participants in the Innovation Expo heard experts from MasterCard, General Electric, C3 Energy and other companies describe how they are harvesting terabytes of data to learn more about their customers, drive innovation and increase productivity and growth. Approximately 450 employees attended the all-day event held in Baltimore, which is home to Exelon's Constellation and BGE subsidiaries.
"The growing linkage between advanced technology and the creative use of data provides opportunities for Exelon to develop new energy products and services, operate our businesses more efficiently and better serve customers," said Sonny Garg, senior vice president and chief information and innovation officer for Exelon. "As the energy industry becomes increasingly competitive, events like this help Exelon gain an edge by identifying emerging technologies and adapting the best ideas from inside and outside the company."
Employees unable to attend the expo in person were invited to roam the conference hall by remotely piloting one of several robots developed by Double Robotics. The robots, which consist of a mobile robot base fitted with a vertical stem that holds an iPad, are one recent example of how Exelon is using technology and innovation to improve efficiency. The droids are controlled remotely over an Internet connection, saving employee travel costs and making more efficient use of time. Using the iPad's camera and microphone, users can interact with colleagues, attend meetings and take in their surroundings as they move about remote locations via robot.
A key element of big data involves harvesting and analyzing large data streams, looking for patterns and identifying ways to effectively exploit the information to make better business decisions. For example, deep data analysis is helping Exelon design more effective customer service systems, optimize maintenance practices, identify ways to reduce costs across the enterprise and develop products that help customers make smarter use of energy. The Innovation Expo explored applications for big data in a series of panel discussions moderated by Robert C. Wolcott, a senior lecturer at the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University, and executive director of the Kellogg Innovation Network.
"Exelon is really two companies - an energy company and a customer service company - and underlying both of those are a lot of data sets," Wolcott said. "Leveraging these data and bringing employees together to drive innovation across the enterprise is critical to providing top-quality customer service and delivering reliable, clean energy."
In advance of the Innovation Expo, Exelon challenged employees to submit posters showcasing innovative ideas they are currently developing. More than 60 posters were displayed at the event as part of the companywide competition.