Big Data in the Utility Industry

The-Big-Risks-of-Big-Data-MiningThe amount of data that is now at our fingertips is consistently increasing and so are the analytics required to reap their benefits. This trend is expected to continue as the digital atmosphere is projected to be 44 times larger in 2020 than it was in 2009.  This means that not only are we able to store more data as a whole, but that this data in almost all cases will continue to get more detailed – leading to more specific and more effective results. These results can be used for almost anything from creating more innovative operation strategies, to better reaching consumers, to even predicting the “next big trend” within your industry. The utility industry is not exempt from this Big Data expansion and in fact has the burden (or blessing) of having an overwhelming amount of data to deal with.

As our previous blog mentioned, innovation with regards to smart technologies and efficiency will soon be affecting the ways in which we produce, harvest, and share our electricity. Within these advancements will also come the ability for utility systems to produce and distribute their own data regarding anything from smart meters to outage management system information (MSI).  With all of these very different and intricate sets of data coming together, one of the biggest challenges the utility industry will face is determining which data sets are to take priority, which to supplement, and the analytics that creates the best mesh. The ability to accurately do this will give companies the capacity to predict and prevent problems rather than having to fix a problem after it has already arose. This will be the case with regards to almost every facet of the utility process.

Solutions have already been proposed and introduced in the way of analyzing data from electrical grids. In early 2014 at DistribuTECH – the largest conference for the electric and gas utility industry – GE Digital Energy announced their own solution for Big Data and the various challenges utilities are up against. This solution is Grid IQ Insight’s Advanced Meter Insight. This solution is powered by Predix – GE’s industrial internet software platform. This is the first of five applications that GE Digital Energy plans to release under Grid IQ Insight. This application provides a platform that enables analytics to be produced that let utilities visualize and learn more about their operations via massive amounts of data. This essentially brings utilities one step closer to being as efficient as possible with all of the information they are now able to harvest about their services and maximize their value.

An example of these analytics creating greater efficiency and preventing rather than fixing includes social media. By utilizing the social media analysis facet that this technology is capable of, utilities are able to monitor the average amount of social media activity in a given consumer area, (tweets, posts, shares, etc.) and, when these numbers fluctuate for any reason, they are able to determine whether a connectivity or electrical problem is to blame. This puts them ahead of the problem before it matures and limits the number of frustrated consumers. Even more so, after this remedy is applied, utilities will be able to more easily discourage the problem from happening again.

The next step is for utilities to continue to invest in these new technologies and to ensure their services and technologies are as versatile as possible for what’s to come in the future. Innovative advancements like that of GE bring us that much closer to being the most efficient, economic and canny consumers/producers of energy that there have ever been.


The Power of Big Data

Word Cloud "Big Data"

It is becoming more and more evident that Big Data is getting BIG, and the role of analytics just may be an immediate divide between one company and another as data becomes a crucial part of production, labor and capital.

According to research by McKinsey & Company – a global management consulting firm that serves leading organizations – almost all industries in the U.S. economy had at least 200 terabytes of stored data per company with more than 1,000 employees in 2009.  The International Data Corporation (IDC) predicts that by 2020, the total digital universe will be 44 times larger than that.

In the utility realm, recent advancements in smart grid devices and applications are creating significant increases in the amount of data now available.  In actuality, the need to reinvent the technology surpassed simply adding new hardware or making updates to existing infrastructure.  With real-time applications, weather information, smart meters, etc., utilities are inundated with data and the increase in technology and information is changing the ways utilities operate.  Traditional operations are being re-evaluated and strategy adjustments are needed to improve ROI.  However, this influx of data will allow utilities to process and leverage it to execute innovative and valuable strategies.

Big Data is complex, but proper analysis can bring transparency and yield significant results.  It takes expertise to understand the intricacies and utilize sophisticated analytics to create value from large amounts of data.  However, doing so can result in better management decisions based on real-time information and forecasting abilities.  In an age where data and technology are revolutionizing the way we do business, it is important to be forward-thinking.  Don’t fear the data – optimize it of all it’s worth.