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.