While the BPD platform offers various browser-based analysis tools, third parties can also access the database through an Application Programming Interface (API). Using the API, users can query the same analytical tools available through the web interface, without compromising the security or anonymity of the database. The API enables the sharing of content and data between applications, meaning that third party web or mobile applications can be dynamically updated with BPD data. However, to preserve data anonymity and security, the API provides the same aggregated analysis that the BPD interface does. In other words, it will not return individual records but rather analytical results.
The API is designed to be extensible in both function and parameters as more capabilities are added to the BPD itself. The Department of Energy has developed a large repository of anonymous, empirical records and encourages the market to provide new and innovative ways to utilize the data.
ACCESSING THE API
The API is currently free and available in beta form. Once the beta testing period is over, an appropriate fee will be instituted for production use of the API, but there will be a discount for those who also contribute data to the BPD. Data cannot be contributed directly to the BPD via the API.
The current BPD API implementation grants equal read-only data access to all API users. Finer authorization distinctions will be added as the BPD evolves and usage feedback is provided.
More information can be found on the developer’s page.
APPLICATIONS OF THE API
The API can be used for a range of application development, visualization or research purposes, or to integrate the BPD with privately held data. Possible applications include building comparison tools, user specific (e.g. building manager) tools, data visualization tools, user experience tools, statistical analysis tools, and so on.
The BPD API was debuted at the Green Energy Hackathon in San Francisco in Fall 2013. Developers, designers and business representatives formed five teams that all used the Buildings Performance Database API uniquely:
- "Kinetic": An application that links Google Glass and the BPD so that a building operator can have near-real-time feeds of building energy use and potential retrofits.
- "Retrofit Micro-loans": An application that links the BPD and a micro loan company. Based on data from the PBD a group could assess the risk of a proposed retrofit, and the proposed payback structure.
- "Improving reporting": An improvement in BPD results reporting that facilitates ease of understanding.
- "School Energy IQ": An application that can read energy data from any remote device, such as a Raspberry Pi. Schools and classrooms could link their "energy devices" through this application so that a building operator could monitor building energy use and compare it to the BPD.
- "Enviroaudit": A mobile application that links BPD to real-time energy use. The developer demonstrated a link between BPD and JCI's Panoptix.
The BPD API is also among those in the DOE “Apps for Energy” Contest, where teams of developers combined the BPD with other publicly available APIs, and developed applications for mobile phones. Examples include an application that estimates energy cost of a given real estate listing using the BPD and Zillow, and an app that converts Green Button data into a “how to save” report using a BPD comparison dataset. API users could also integrate the BPD with privately held data in order to show their own buildings compared against BPD peers.