Transforming Utilities with IoT and Analytics

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Mixing Electricity and Water

Normally you should not mix water and electricity unless you want a shocking experience.

When it comes to how the use of data and analytics can transform water and electricity utilities into intelligent enterprises we can make an exception.

In this post I discuss the challenges utilities are facing over the upcoming years and lay out why Analytics and IoT is going to be increasingly important. At the end I include a link to an on-demand Webinar with an organization who has already delivered solutions in this space: Saviant Consulting.

Water Utilities

Water, water everywhere … so what is the problem?

70% of the earth’s surface is covered with water. You might wonder if we should be concerned about better managing a seemingly abundant resource.

Surely water utilities have an  easy job. Grab some water and deliver it to the customers who then simply use it as they want?

If only it were that simple.  We know that 97% of the earths water is salt water. Salt water is filled with salt and other minerals. Humans cannot drink this water and it is not that useful for many other purposes either. Although the salt can be removed, it is a difficult and expensive process today. Until the promises of new technology are proven this will remain so.

Of the remaining 3% two percent is glacier ice at the North and South Poles. This ice is fresh water and could be melted; however, it is too far away from where people live to be usable and no-one knows what effects that might have on the climate overall.

So less than 1% of all the water on earth is fresh water that we can actually use. We use this small amount of water for drinking, transportation, heating and cooling, industry, and many other purposes. It is a very scarce resource. It is only going to come under more pressure as our population grows by approximately 70% by the year 2050.

How we manage the collection, delivery and use of that resource will be vital to our planet and our own survival. It will also be a major focus of those consuming water as well as those who are collecting and delivering it across the entire supply chain.

A problem today which will get more acute!

The simple fact is we do not need to wait until close to 2050 to see where we are headed. Today water shortages already exist in the US, The UK and in more far afield locations where we may be more used to seeing issues with lack of water. It is a global problem and it is getting worse.

Because of this customers/consumers are becoming more aware and organizations are having to step up their game due to a desire to meet sustainability targets and be seen as more environmentally friendly.

Everything is on the table from ensuring leaks are quickly spotted in the supply chain, using sensors along the way, to helping consumers and businesses better understand their usage so they can spot issues and resolve them via things like Smart Meters and new services.

To be the number one water utility company in the future a utility company will need to become customer centric. They will also have to be laser focused on the environment, squeezing the most they can from our scarce water resources and helping consumers to do the same.

Electricity Utilities

Looking at electricity utilities we see that the expectation is, with population rising by 70% through 2050, that global energy demand will increase by more than 37%.

This demand explosion is going to put a huge strain on energy supplies across the entire supply chain.  On one hand it is increasingly simple for customers to switch suppliers meaning customer service is becoming a massive issue for electricity utilities. On the other hand more electricity is going to come from “less reliable” sources, or even off the grid, such as wind and solar meaning that matching supply and demand is going to get more difficult.

A market facing faster disruption than most

These disruptions are driving utilities to quickly move towards Smart meters. Smart meters are being aggressively installed by electricity and water utilities and they are also putting increasing actions to “smart-enable” their grids or water distribution networks.

At the same time demand forecasting using Analytics is becoming more important and Predictive Maintenance for new power generation sources is increasing in importance especially in the electricity utility space.

As you know smart meters attach to buildings and connect to a smart energy grid, or water distribution network, allowing the utility companies to more effectively manage energy/water flow into buildings but also allowing them to build new relationships with customers.

By understanding the usage patterns utilities can provide insight for customers that were previously not possible helping them better utilize the electricity and water they are consuming. This can also be used to better estimate demand to ensure adequate supply.

If we go back to the customer side of the house it is important to realize that in an age where “switching” suppliers is increasingly easy loyalty ensures that customer churn is reduced or managed in an effective manner. While much focus is put on how smart meters let utility companies manage supply and demand, which they undoubtedly do in the age of distributed energy production, a great deal of attention is increasingly being faced on how utility companies obtain the data they need to become customer centric and deliver new advisory services as an example that drive loyalty.

IoT and Analytics in Utilities

What this means, even beyond the smart meter, is that utilities are turning to the Internet of Things together with Analytics.

They are looking to use it to help meet the needs of the future, make better use of scarce resources, better monitor and manage their delivery supply chain and become an advisor to the customer on how they can help through new data driven services.

Utilities that embrace the use of data can expect better returns in customer loyalty, revenue, lower operating costs, better service levels and they will be seen as more environmentally friendly.

Introducing Saviant Consulting

So with that background I was  delighted to be able to host Saviant Consulting in a recent webinar which you can now watch on-demand by clicking on the image below.

Saviant Consulting has a long history in this space which they outline in the webinar.  Today they utilize Microsoft IoT capabilities to allow utilities to take advantage of the Internet of Things and  Analytics helping bring ideas to life so they can transform utilities businesses.

In the webinar you will hear how you can:

  • Leverage Azure IoT Suite to build robust Meter Data Management systems
  • Manage Utility consumption data coming from multiple sources
  • Reduce non-revenue consumption using consumption & leakage analytics
  • Learn how you can gain benefits by analyzing your existing data and understanding the significance of relevant KPIs
  • Learn how you can enable visualization of utility data in real-time using Power BI
  • See the impact you can see from integrating notification engine for real-time alerts
  • Understand the importance of devising Predictive models for demand analysis and loss/outage analysis

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