How Big Data Will Impact the Utility Industry This Year

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We’ve always known the internet as the web – but how does big data fit into this intricately woven design? Think of big data as every little detail that goes into this web, and then some. It’s the simplest and the most complex sets of data all in one space. Now, multiple that by 2.5 quintillion – that’s how many bytes of data are in our web.

So, you have this web full of data. Where do you go now? Let’s talk more about the concept of big data and how it will grow and can proactively impact the daily operations for anyone in the utility industry.

Big Data – What’s the Big Deal?

Big data is large amounts of complex data that is constantly evolving and goes beyond the capabilities of traditional processing software. In part, these processing limitations are due to the sheer volume of information coming into the system – but that is only one piece of the equation. Today’s data comes from thousands of different sources at an alarming rate, making the processing more and more complex.

When thinking about big data, it can be simplified by the three Vs:

Volume

Variety

Velocity

The amount of data that is collected.

The different types of data that is collected.

The rate at which data is received.

Data is collected every second of every day and ranges from the items you shop for online to the data planes transmit during flights and everything in between. All of this takes us back to that 2.5 quintillion bytes of data floating around that make up our web. To put that number into perspective – that’s equivalent to 20 million Blu-ray Discs, and that number only continues to grow. 

This information allows utility companies to gain additional insight into trends happening at facilities and with customer habits. Using this information will allow you to stay ahead and continue to create proactive solutions for customers and processes.

What Big Data Means in Utility

You may be thinking that this all seems a little technical and can’t see how it applies to the utility and energy industries. So let’s cut to the chase – how does big data affect you?

1. Access to More Information

With all of the information being collected on a daily basis, you have your own web of information that can be tapped into to improve a customer’s experience or prevent potential outages. Think of all the possibilities that relate to your business. What if you could let a customer know their electrical system needed maintenance before an issue arose? On the other hand, imagine being able to prevent an outage by analyzing the statistics coming out of your solar farm. By utilizing the big data available to you, these scenarios are possible.

As smart buildings continue to gain popularity, the knowledge they provide also grows. Analyzing the statistics from high-performing sites and identifying common trends can help to improve lower performing locations. In addition, you have the opportunity to watch the activity at each site to address potential concerns such as outages or environmental hazards before they happen.

2. Providing Better Service

Another benefit to big data is that you can improve customer service and provide new services from the information received through their connected devices, such a smart meters. With this information, you have the ability to know when a customer needs maintenance prior to an issue arising. This could prevent them from losing power in their home, making for a happy customer. If an outage were to occur, having the information readily available could help to reduce the storage restoration time.

Additionally, more data can be placed into the customer's hands including usage reports, comparison to similar homes in the area, planned or scheduled maintenance outages, and automatic service dashboards down to the individual resident. With enhancements in data collection techniques and technologies, you can forecast and build maintenance models and predict annual expenses based on thousands of samples. Consider a grid where monitors and sensors could immediately pinpoint not only the location of an outage but the cause and immediately dispatch repair crews with little to no intervention.

The Future of Big Data, the Internet of Things (IoT), and Artificial Intelligence (AI)

That headline covers quite a few buzz words that are thrown around in our industry today. But how do they all fit together in this big data web? Separately, each of these technologies provide a number of benefits to your daily routine – from connecting devices through the IoT to eliminating the labor of simple tasks with AI.  But together, these technologies are changing the future of the utilities industry.

Bringing the IoT and AI into the world of big data is one trend you should expect to see grow in the coming years. Machine learning opportunities with the IoT will allow systems to predict the outcome of a situation and adjust accordingly. While AI will help to automate data processing, prevent duplicate efforts and improve communications. Together, these technologies will learn from each other and use the data to continuously improve.

Bringing the IoT and AI into the world of big data is one trend you should expect to see grow in the coming years.

Improve Solar and Renewable Energy Sources With Big Data 

Big data is a trend to keep an eye on in the solar and renewable sector of the utility industry.

Big data is a trend to keep an eye on in the solar and renewable sector of the utility industry. By analyzing the data coming in and syncing with weather systems, it’s possible to predict weather conditions to increase production from solar panels or wind turbines. For example, it is possible to track a weather event and track cloud movement to ensure that solar panels are receiving optimal sunlight.

Implementing an operations and management program can also eliminate the need for sensors or unnecessary in-person maintenance checks that may be an added cost. If the information coming into the system were to detect a maintenance problem, an alert would be sent to a maintenance crew. They would then be able to quickly identify and resolve the issue in a timely manner – without having to wait for a customer to report the problem.

The Future of Big Data and Utility

The amount of data running through our web every day is only expected to grow as more and more devices become connected. To stay ahead of the curve and be proactive in your business, now is the time to tap into all this data. Big data will become a valuable resource for anyone looking to improve customer service and productivity. Those who know how to use this information will be ahead of the game.  

That leads us to the next big question – how do I manage this? The challenge of how to manage this data will continue to be a concern, but by partnering with a distributor who can help in managing the inflow of data and identify opportunities, you’ll be one step ahead. Everything you need to jump on the big data bandwagon is already in your web – now it’s your move.

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