Disruptive megatrends such as rapid urbanisation, climate change and volatile energy prices are transforming the utilities sector. The old centralised market is being dispersed, disrupted and digitised by agile new entrants, alternative energy sources and in-control customers.
At the same time, spurred by advances in technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), ever-increasing amounts of data on electricity and water usage are being collected at every point of supply and demand, adding both complexity and opportunity to the mix.
The Thailand 4.0 policy, developed to promote the transition to a digital economy, includes a Smart Utility component, expected to be in place by 2022. A key feature will be a Utility Digital Platform, representing collaboration between major utility service providers and covering service requests, installation, payment, post-installation service and failure notification. The three areas of focus are open data, digital transformation and data analytics (both customer and supply analysis).
Additionally, providers are actively upgrading their services to offer a better customer experience, with applications specially designed to provide information on billing and usage anywhere and anytime. Innovation is being embraced to achieve competitive advantage, business performance excellence, cost savings and improved customer experience.
Modern customers want from their utility providers the same instant access to the most up-to-date information — on the platform of their choice — that they are accustomed to receiving from many other services. Even more compelling is the technological transformation that has made available personalised insights into energy use that can transform behaviour. For example, users now know more about time-of-use rates and are encouraged to shift their consumption to more economical times.
Water utilities too are harnessing the potential of new technology. One major water utility in Southeast Asia is preparing to use the Oracle Utilities Work and Asset Management Cloud Service to improve its asset performance management. A key benefit will be to ensure that appropriate resources are allocated and deployed when issues related to water assets arise, based on an analysis of available data. Work order management and maintenance schedules can then be optimised in real time.
Such use cases are a testament to how the utilities industry is embracing technology in streamlining business processes, enabling them to perform more effectively and work more productively.
Asset operations today are able to detect and predict the risk of failures faster, helping to reduce the total cost of ownership and improve workforce deployment. The platform also allows utilities to get ahead with cloud technology in terms of data-led decision-making across their organisations.
Today, the daily life of utility centres consists almost entirely of data. Real-time data insights and actions such as sharing instant notifications on outages, problems and power quality issues are driven by innovations such as AI-enabled, self-healing nanobots.
Consumers are also able to “order” audits of not just their overall energy usage, but at the individual appliance level, they are able to supply data history and analysis immediately. A customer service chatbot can also follow up through the same device.
Machine learning in particular has made remarkable strides in the utility industry. Oracle Utilities, for example, has built a set of analytic insights from the world’s largest smart meter data repository, and has proven to more than 100 utilities how such insights can help improve customer satisfaction.
DISRUPTION GAME PLAN
As the world changes, only our ability to use technology will hold us back. Governments have to adapt regulations in terms of how rates for utility services are designed, ownership of data, and who controls different transactions beyond the meter.
Only when advancements in key energy technologies and the appropriate regulatory framework are working in tandem, will our goals of energy sustainability be met.
In the long run, a dual-track and simultaneous approach that includes both core business innovation and future business innovation is required. Utilities providers will need to use a more modular approach by adopting technology to look for new revenue streams.
There is an opportunity for the cloud to play a role in all of this by taking utilities out of the business of doing the mundane work of maintaining technology and creating more time for them to innovate.
As businesses need to spend more of their time and budgets on innovation and less on maintaining systems, utilities will reap the benefits of the cloud as well as having companies like Oracle assist in maintaining their environments for them, and ensuring the data and information are more secure, instead of having to do it themselves.
Innovation powers providers using data to optimise efficiency and serve customers better. By Francois Vazille
Francois Vazille is vice-president of Oracle Utilities for Japan, Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
Via: Bangkok Post