Big Data-Creating Big Business Value

Utilities should leverage data and analytics to raise productivity, improve decision making and gain a competitive advantage.
Published: Thu 03 Dec 2015

Finding true business value in the tsunami of data received today is proving to be a big challenge for utilities.  We invited a number of experts in the field to our studios at European Utility Week to explain how this value can be turned into opportunities for the utility and energy customer.

Data could be a market differentiator

Matthew Ross, US sales director, Energyworx, describes how his company is removing the complexity around data collection for utilities. Energyworx simplifies the data collection process by placing the data into a centralised data view and then beyond that they correct the data and provide any necessary estimations so that it can be used for use cases such as Ciber’s new “utility in a box” solution.

Joost van der Linde, business consultant energy & utilities, Ciber, describes how his firm enables utilities, through the “utility in a box" to offer new business propositions such as time of use billing. The product has been designed to help utilities differentiate themselves in a competitive market by offering energy customers diversity in service offerings. 

Mr Ross recommends that utilities approach third parties for their data management needs so that they can focus on their core business. Mr van der Linde advises utilities to offer their customers different propositions as this will be their market differentiator in a highly competitive retail environment.

Santhosh Gopinath, team lead, cloud transformation and database services, RWE Supply & Trading UK, talks about their project which involves the rollout of a hybrid cloud for supply and trading to host their production and non production applications. The business benefits of moving data to the cloud include shorter time to market, high resiliency and flexibility and cost reduction.

Data-a commodity to be traded

Kevin Collins, Bit Stew Systems, talks about the Industrial Internet of Things revolution, its drivers and the impacts on the energy industry.

He points out that first, utilities must recognise the challenges that have come about as a result of the energy transformation. Then, they should go through a personal transformation within the utility to ensure that they can adopt and manage the new technology and also leverage it for new business.

Mr Collins describes how Bit Stew Systems can help utilities take advantage of new connected network sensors to harness data effectively, thereby improving network visibility. He explains: “Data harnessing is challenging but does provide many opportunities for the utility business. Bit Stew sifts out the noise and finds nuggets of information that will help utilities improve operational efficiency and reduce costs.”

Data can reduce churn

Jason Elliot, head of global sales, Onzo, explains how data from smart meters can be maximized, especially when it comes to improving the customer-utility relationship. He points out that by using customer data effectively, utilities can reduce churn.

But what stands in the way of customer centricity in Europe? Mr Elliot says that change is difficult for utilities especially when it comes to altering existing products and services on a large scale. He adds that the tsunami of complex meter data has made it even more difficult to make business decisions, and some utilities are unsure whether to build their own solutions or partner with a third party.

On that note, he offers the following advice: “Choose your partners well especially in the data analytics space. Find a partner who is passionate, capable, innovative, and who can deliver at scale.”

Driving real value from data

Brad Williams, vice president of industry strategy for operational solutions for the utilities business unit at Oracle Utilities, talks about how the techno-savvy customer drives the digitization of the utility business. He says that often customers are moving at a faster rate than utilities when it comes to digitization. He adds that the devices in the field are also driving the digitization process.

He explains how utilities can really use this new data to drive value at a customer and grid level. Analytics cloud service can help customers harness this value efficiently, he says.

Mr Williams recommends that utilities have a long term goal but that they should also take advantage of the low hanging fruit. He adds that it is important for utilities to align themselves with the thought leaders in the industry to understand the trends and make the necessary changes.

True value of the smart meter

Miguel Angel Sánchez Fornié, director of control systems and telecommunications, Iberdrola, talks about how the smart meter is transforming from a billing solution to an intelligence engine providing a broader base of solutions for the energy customer and the grid.

Data on the grid is now enabling grid operators to work more proactively since more visibility is made possible. He explains: “There is a need to move away from the idea of a smart grid to a more intelligent grid. Utilities need to move away from being techno-centric to solution-centric. A market-oriented network is critical for survival.”