Following the call for projects “Physical devices and software for intelligent supervision of biomethane production facilities” launched by GRDF in May and June 2020, some 50 innovative companies, Research and start-up laboratories made proposals for improving monitoring of methanisation sites. 9 projects were selected following the analysis of the files, and continue the selection process.

Three categories were created, three “sensor” projects, three “man-machine software or interfaces” projects and three “predictive maintenance” proposals. We invite you to discover each of these innovative companies in a series of articles.

THE SOLUTION as you would explain it to your grandmother

DCbrain is a software publisher that uses data to better understand, operate, and simulate the operation of energy networks.

More specifically, it uses several sources

  • of consumption data to understand their behaviour
  • of injection data for a fine analysis of what was injected
  • and of what are known as legacy data, from GIS, for which certain network sections are identified by their GPS coordinates so they can be geolocated

Our solution uses data from sensors that are already present in the networks, and extracts the maximum possible quantity of analytical information from them.

When there is a lack of data, we can supplement it with physical data obtained from existing models for similar situations.

  • The key word (concept) to understand

is “data”. A very large quantity of data is generated that ends up being under-used and insufficiently analysed. It is the basis for understanding, which allows optimum operation. Our solution is interconnected with our customers’ databases via APIs. It allows the data to be processed and made accessible from anywhere.

  • The key selling point, THE real difference in the market

Our solution is unique. It lets you optimise and also simulate scenarios; for example, to simulate a case of integrating new biomethane injection points into a network and see what happens. Or you could simulate a gas network with injection of biomethane and hydrogen, making it necessary to be able to track who is consuming what, and how the gases disperse in the networks, how they are distributed. DCbrain will let you track that analysis.

The solution is unique because it combines artificial intelligence and Big Data with physical data. Most other tools are based on a classic physical data model. DCbrain adds AI to that. To illustrate this more clearly: it’s as if you compared Google Maps to Waze to map out a route. In the first case, you obtain a calculation of a route from Point A to Point B, with the road types and their speed limits. In the second case, you add real-time traffic data, so that the travel time can be adjusted according to any traffic jams along the route. We do the same thing. What makes us more accurate is the mix of data.

  • PROJECT PROMOTERS

Their challenges, their personal journey, their partners, etc.

Arnaud de Moissac used to manage the energy efficiency of a data centre that consumed a great deal of energy, especially for cooling. He needed a tool to optimise the cold flow, and he started to develop it himself. That led to the development of a special technology.

DCbrain was born when I joined forces with Arnaud, combining his technical expertise with my sales experience. We created the company and were able to start working on bigger systems, like those of GRDF, with a real need to optimise, especially for biomethane injection.

What drove me was the challenge of helping to make networks smart, mobilising artificial intelligence, getting involved in digital transition issues…those are really important matters for society.

The research side is a strong feature of our ongoing development. We work with Paris-Saclay University and Télécom Paris; we have joint theses, CIFRE contracts, etc. The president of the Télécom Paris ‘Machine Learning for Big Data’ Chair is a member of the scientific committee!

  • What excites him

The adventure of entrepreneurship: making the company grow, developing it internationally, building teams, etc.

In other words, making the transition from a garage start-up to a real company, which is what we are doing!

  • The popular misconception that irritates him

It’s a start-up, so it’s not expensive! We’ve heard this a lot; it’s annoying, because we are developing highly technical, complex tools, and they have a value… but it’s OK, it’s beginning to fade away.

THE FUTURE

  • What being selected by GRDF would mean for the development of the business

DCbrain already works with GRDF, but we would like to work on other topics with them as well: tracking gas consumption, invoicing, modelling and adjustment of gas networks within the framework of the hydrogen development plan… There are really a lot of areas that would be open to us.

And, of course, a sign of their renewed trust in us would be further confirmation of our model’s relevance!

  • The main challenges in the sector as a whole

The next challenge for gas will be the interconnection between electricity and gas. The shape of energy use will have to be completely re-drawn to really develop renewable energies. This should keep France busy for the next ten years.

The political will now truly exists, with massive investment (7 billion) in developing hydrogen.

We must unite everyone’s expertise to make significant advances.

I feel confident about the future.

  • And about DCbrain specifically?

Our challenges involve both the technology, the tool is running smoothly but there are still many other things we can do with it, particularly improving the accessibility of the data for network operators completely autonomously, without special skills, and the quality of the data too… there are always plenty of fascinating areas for improvement!

And there is also the success of our internationalisation. It’s not enough just to find customers; we also need to structure the team, guarantee the quality of the service, switch languages, etc.

RAPID-FIRE QUESTIONS // THE ENTREPRENEURIAL EXPERIENCE

  • They are soon going to pitch in front of the GRDF panel; no doubt it’s not the first time. Any stories to share about some past experiences?

The craziest incident I remember was a pitch I gave to a Japanese audience, assisted by an interpreter. When the questions became technical, I saw him panicking… I’ll never know exactly how he translated everything!

  • Your first thought each morning?

I’m usually woken up by my children, so my first thought is, “quick, give that baby a bottle!”

  • Your first real professional satisfaction

Our technology has won many awards, it has won a hackathon… it’s all very gratifying, but the first thing I was really proud of was the first big contract we signed with GRDF in 2017. It was a wonderful success, proving that we had grown from a start-up to something more structured and serious. It’s very encouraging.

  • The best encouragement you have ever received?

Every time one of our customers asks us to work on a new topic for them. Their loyalty proves that they trust us.

  • A mantra?
  • A personal quality shared by the partners?

Curiosity. We both like testing, trying, experimenting, etc.

  • A short message to convince the panel?

It already works; there is no reason why it shouldn’t work for other things!