Concepts such as the internet of things (IoT), intelligent grid, and edge intelligence have the capacity to add all kinds of value to utilities.
Patty Roze, Director of Enterprise Sales at Verizon Wireless, discusses some significant examples of how technology can create and add business value to the energy sector.
“Machine-to-machine has been around for a very long time. It’s now to that point with all of the technology advances [that] the operational cost of that network has significantly come down from previous technologies, which makes the technology more scalable financially for all of these utilities,” says Roze.
She adds that the cost-effectiveness for implementing IoT, combined with its enhanced connectivity, “gives us the opportunity to really look at the art of the possible, and what can we do with that technology to further drive value for the utility consumer and efficiencies for the overall utility.”
Adding concrete value to utilities
Roze describes one tangible benefit utilities have had from implementing new technologies as a sizeable reduction of truck rolls. “When you start putting technology in the meters or collector points, whether it’s a mesh network or a point-to-point connection within the utility, being able to remote read those meters, remote shut-off, remote turn-on, that reduces the truck rolls.”
She estimates that utilities in the United States have been able to reduce truck rolls by over three hundred thousand with the aid of these technologies.
In addition, Roze comments, the way utilities collect and read data has evolved significantly as well. “I believe that the next phase of what we’re going to see here is being able to be more prescriptive and predictive based on the analytics of that data,” she says.
“And it’s not someone combing through a report to say ‘what could we have done differently here’, it’s having the intelligence of that data make automated decisions around what the grid needs to do.”
Decision-making at the edge
When it comes to what measures utilities should take to fully realise the potential of new technologies in the sector, Roze believes that being able to make faster and more precise decisions at the edge is a key element. “The ability to make those real-time decisions at the edge and being able to connect multiple things. [...] I think that’s the biggest value that’s come to light recently, being able to make those decisions at the edge.”
However, she recognizes that utilities may need time to get used to the idea of relying on this new technology increasingly more for decision-making and interpreting data. The technological innovation that the energy sector is continuously undergoing is a phased process. “I think that is a little bit tough of an adjustment for the utility to make.”
“I remember back when the smart grid, all that started rolling out. That was very different because they were used to having a meter reader go and read each of those meters, and so they started trusting that data. So I think it’s one step at a time. All of the big investors on utilities that I worked with have very much become forward thinking in their approach and the way that they’re looking at the technology.”
It is certainly important for utilities to make the most out of new technology available to them. It is a move that may well attract sizeable investments and help renovate and optimise the way a company operates.
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