Improvements to Chicago’s Energy Efficiency Wins Accenture Competition

A team of three McCormick graduate students used analytics to increase the city’s efficiency

(left to right) Ben Rhodes and Shahid Ahmed of Accenture Communications; Charles Nebolsky of Cisco Business Group, McCormick graduate students Kyle Hundman, Andy Fox, and Monsu Mathew; Andy Fano of Accenture Technology' Josh Sommer of Accentures CMT network offerings group; and Tom Schenk, the City of Chicago’s director of analytics.

Teams of McCormick graduate students competing in the annual Accenture Analytics Case Competition have designed new ways for the City of Chicago to use analytics to increase its efficiency and improve constituent service.

The students analyzed data from the city’s data portal, which provides public access to information on city departments, services, facilities, and performance. The teams looked for patterns and trends in electric power and natural gas usage based on building type and location, and in other civic services, ranging from reports of potholes to requests for graffiti removal. This type of data mining is used to derive business intelligence from large volumes of unrelated data, and the contest encouraged students to take innovative approaches to this task.

The winning team—comprising McCormick graduate students Andy Fox, Kyle Hundman, and Monsu Mathew—designed a program that analyzed fluctuations in energy use in residential buildings to further refine the city’s energy efficiency initiatives. The winners, who will share a $1,000 prize, were chosen from three teams of finalists that recently presented their proposals to a panel of Accenture and City of Chicago executives.

“Seizing the potential of big data is essential as organizations strive to transform data into insights that enhance customer relationships, drive competitive differentiation, and streamline operations,” said Shahid Ahmed, managing director of Accenture’s Communications Industry group for North America. “The challenge these students faced was to apply their knowledge and theories to real-world scenarios and then think creatively about what other insights the data might provide.”

“This competition highlights some of the incredible research done by Northwestern’s finest engineers in using the power of big data to make our city services more efficient and our government more effective,” said Brenna Berman, commissioner and chief information officer of the Chicago Department of Innovation and Technology. “By increasing our data transparency, we can provide a platform for our brightest minds to showcase their skills and innovative spirit to make the City of Chicago a 21st century economy.”

The competition was open to two- or three-member graduate student teams from McCormick’s Master of Engineering Management program, Master in Science of Analytics program, and students enrolled in the managerial analytics course.

“Innovative examples of using analytics are appearing in many different industries and, of course, government agencies as organizations unlock the promise of big data to drive new analytic insights and act on them,” said Mark Werwath, a clinical associate professor in industrial engineering and management sciences and director of the Master of Engineering Management program. “As analytics expand, so do the opportunities to design compelling, useful programs.”