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8 Emerging Technology Trends in the Utilities Sector

Technology is an ever progressing beast and the possibilities and benefits are endless. Some of the most significant technology trends are going to be imperative for utility industries (such as gas, electricity, oil, water and energy) in a significant way. The changes that new and existing technology will bring will see meaningful benefits for both companies and individuals.

Internet of Energy

As with the dynamism of the internet and the Internet of Things (IoT), comes the explosion of the Internet of Energy (IoE), which is a network where we see supply transcending the existing organic electro chemical system of communications and exist as electronic and radio communications.

Numerous benefits will come from the industry utilising interconnected devices and offering a much better way of distribution. The IoE will see more predictability, less quality and supply issues, flexible consumption and better distribution, optimum demand response and advanced battery storage and usage.

Using SAP integration, sensors and other devices, real time data can be fed back to the user and energy supply and efficiency be monitored and adjusted accordingly. This improves operational productivity and competence, predict pending failures or maintenance requirements and work towards a smarter grid of energy.

Enterprise Mobility

Providing significant benefits in productivity, profit, collaboration and employee safety, enterprise mobility will continue to increase in importance for organisations in this sector.

Coined as a strategic imperative for most businesses, those who are not undertaking this model or are not even at preparation stage are putting themselves at a disadvantage and could end up costing their organisations lots of money.

Sharing Economy

One of the most interesting ways that we’ll see this sector develop through technology is with the use of sharing economy systems. Led the way by disruptive models by global giants such as AirBnb and Uber, the sharing model has a place in the utility industry.

‘Distributed energy is revolutionary because it places more power in the hands of consumers. With the right kit they can be in charge of their energy use like never before. They can optimise the use of their own behind-the-meter energy assets and – with the right pricing incentives – they can be persuaded to support the grid and help prevent blackouts when demand exceeds supply’, Australian Financial Review.

Despite an increase in renewable energies, there are still many individuals and businesses that don’t have the resources to take it on. A mode of sharing energy and distribution will see more people have access to these kind of energies, such as a solar lending system or wind turbine energy lending and foster a transactive energy marketplace when employing the progressive technology models such as blockchain.

‘The sharing economy is coming to the power industry. In the future, we may buy energy from each other, just as we now rent homes from each other on Airbnb,’ Ben Schiller.

Predictability

Predictability will increase as platforms are able to forecast larger scale events such as weather and other factors that play into the unpredictable nature of supply distribution and quality.

Being able to forecast major outages, supply changes, disruptions, fluctuations, demand and so forth will have an enormous impact on being able to deliver during high requirement periods and strategically plan, leading to better budgeting and cost saving measures. All the while supporting the end user.

Collaboration

Collaboration across the oil and gas supply and peripheral sectors are crucial for successful performance and consistent level of supply and will be a major trend in the near future. Working with internet based technology and devices allows for greater improvement in the collaboration process. What was once a clunky and time consuming approach is now a more streamlined, transparent and able to handle much more complex and larger multi party projects and communications.

All parties in the supply chain can have access to real time data from whatever their location without compromising security. Reports, information, progress updates and other vital data will be available at the touch of a button and the ability to see faster collaboration processes is monumental.

Big Data

Big data being collected and used efficiently in the utility industry could mean a wide array of opportunities, especially as most of the data is already there, waiting to be collected and transformed into useful information. Customer service will be more streamlined, efficient, personalised and effective and new products and services can be created with accuracy when organisations know exactly what the customer demand is.

Data will be able to be managed, stored and presented in much more scalable formats and systems, reducing labour and time. The reliability of data will also be able to be counted on, ensuring decision making, cost cutting, customer service and employee safety are noticeably improved.

GIS

Geographical information systems (GIS) are revolutionary in that they will be able to provide in depth reporting, analysis and data collection of geographical spaces providing better decision making capabilities, predictability, safety and resource planning.

This kind of data system is particularly significant for this sector as it often spans great distances and utilises a lot of resources and people power to get the same data required. With GIS, there’s the ability ascertain higher quality data in real time, across the world at an incredible speed.

Social media

The power of social media in customer service and accompanying service delivery will be a giant asset to utility facilities in the near future, if not now. There will be increased ability to collect information via platforms and social listening models to gauge real time customer reactions and satisfaction, as well as customer enquiries and high service levels plus useful outage and supply issues that other data collection areas might miss. Crowd sourcing information this way is incredibly cost effective, wide reaching and smart.

Content Discussion

Dave Bryant's picture
Dave Bryant

Great article, Dominic. You might also want to mention that advanced conductors (such as ACCC) with greatly improved capacity and efficiency are also being widely deployed to improve power grid performance and reliability, while also helping link new cleaner sources of generation.