Utility Week Blog Series: Fueling Productive Energy. Now!

by Keith Brody Nov 10, 2016

In the two preceding blogs we’ve looked at what modern energy utilities need to achieve commercial success and why many are struggling to deliver in the face of outdated legacy IT infrastructures. In this blog we’ll start to move from identifying the problem to outlining a solution.

The first part of this process involves requirements. What are they? What are we looking for IT to do? And when are we looking for it to be done? This isn’t a question of what should I buy but rather a question of isolating “what do I want to do that legacy IT can’t support.” Four answers are central:

  1. Utilities want access to high quality data from any combination and type of asset. The key word here is “combination” because this is where siloed legacy data sources and collection mechanisms fall down. Isolated data drawn from one asset or other source on its own is useful up to a point but that point is largely the performance management of the asset itself. And, of course, in a high-performing modern energy network, components don’t function in isolation. Rather, data needs to be compiled (collected, enriched, processed) “horizontally” – across assets -- to create real value that extends the influence of the data into the commercial landscape.
  1. This brings us to what Big Data is really all about; quality, not quantity. Understanding this is critical to the successful company. Utilities don’t need to be able to access “big data” which, in itself, is largely useless. Rather, they need to create the right data sets to fuel actions which can improve their commercial landscapes. Think in terms of building intelligent data instead of simply collecting any and all data. Being big is not an advantage in the data world.
  1. Next, control. Insights from data need to be useable and contextual. Utilities need to manage networks (with increasingly distributed elements) and meet customer service demands to achieve commercial success. Data sets need to be in position to drive actions that meet both of those goals. And the data integration and management products that will build those sets need to be flexible enough to adapt quickly and cost effectively to changing requirements.
  1. I’ll call the fourth “want” ease of use, which covers a myriad of evils! IT needs to support fast business decision-making and provide the resultant ability to adapt to changes based on key business processes and time-critical data analysis as we noted above. Lengthy delays, complex hard-coding changes and unweildy infrastructures may have delivered enough to reach goals in the past but because they can generally provide none of these functional advantages, they are a barrier to progress today. So modern IT needs a different architecture than legacy.

The four characteristics above are key features of the modern utilities IT landscape. Industry leaders are transitioning towards them now, a shift that is likely to pick up pace in the coming months. In the next blog, we’ll start to examine what the right solution – based on these characteristics -- to the legacy problem looks like. And we’ll look in detail at a fifth, absolutely critical requirement for success: The need for real-time processing.

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More blogs in this series: 

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Topics: IoT, Internet of things, Network Grids, Legacy IT, Utility IT

Keith Brody

Head of Communications

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