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Digital Transformation for Utilities: Why Data Matters.

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In a recent IDC report exploring digital transformation in utilities in the Asia-Pacific region, the main differentiator between companies who are taking advantage of new advances and those falling behind is a robust and innovative data management strategy.

With the rise in big data, we’ve seen countless organisations across all industries implement data management and analytics policies to tap into insights which can provide a competitive edge. In the utilities space, where significant emphasis is placed on health and safety, data-backed decisions can also lead to safer worksites, making it a valuable strategy.

But across the Asia-Pacific region, IDC has found the majority of utilities providers are merely in the early stages of digital transformation and still wary of taking the leap. These companies are the ones who need to act now or risk being pushed out altogether. On the other end of the spectrum, only 4% of companies are considered game-changers, using technology to rethink how they operate and disrupt the marketplace.

Digital Transformation in Asia-Pacific* Utilities

Falling behind

Digital Resisters - 66.5%

Business is laggard, providing weak digital operational capabilities and using digital technology only to counter threats.

Digital Explorers - 21.9%

Digitally-enabled operational capabilities and integration across the operational value chain are poor and inconsistent.

Making progress

Digital Players - 7.5%

Provides consistent but not truly innovative capabilities and operational site environments. 

Leading the way

Digital Transformers - 3.8%

Leader within the utility sector, providing world-class digital operation that enables access to superior talent, partnerships and capital access.

Digital Disruptors - 0.3%

Business remakes the operational value chain of a utility company, impacting markets to its own advantage, it’s a fast-moving target for competition.

Utilities at the Forefront of the Industry – Meridian Energy

Certus has long been active in arming Australian and New Zealand companies in asset-intensive industries with the tools to adapt to technological change. In the utilities sector Meridian Energy, one of New Zealand’s largest electricity generators are working to improve their operational efficiency. Their transformed processes have been outlined in a recent article published by the BBC, which you can read here.

Here are some highlights:

Engineers at Meridian Energy rely on analytics to identify changes in the condition of turbines, generators, transformers and other key equipment.

By monitoring plant readings and inspection reports, as well as taking into account historical data, analytics can provide early warning of potential maintenance issues and enable better management of New Zealand’s power-generating infrastructure.

“Asset monitoring generates vast sets of disparate data for engineers to interpret, but we're only scratching the surface in terms of how we use that data. With the help of cognitive computing we could better evaluate a situation in the context of all relevant and often seemingly unrelated data, and with the expertise of the engineers, determine the best course of action to ensure New Zealand’s power plants run efficiently." – Neil Gregory, Reliability Engineering Manager at Meridian Energy.

The Cognitive Future for Utilities

For future-focused utilities, many opportunities to take advantage of increasing data lie in cognitive computing, which is rewiring whole industries.

Watson is IBM’s cognitive computing engine which thinks more like a human than a regular computer.

It can ingest and understand all data, from reports to tweets and photos, at impressive speeds (it can read 800 million pages per second) and then reveal insights, patterns and connections in this data, that is far beyond what a human could do.

Watson enhances our ability to use data and engage with technology to make better decisions, increase productivity, scale expertise and, ultimately, improve outcomes.

For Meridian’s Neil Gregory, cognitive technology can serve to complement and improve existing analytics technology being used by utilities, such as predictive asset management systems and decision support systems.

“This is the real power of cognitive computing – helping us make better decisions by analysing the masses of data, information and reports from around the world that our teams of engineers could never hope to digest."

For more information on how Utilities firms are using digital transformation to improve their operational capabilities, grab your copy of our free eBook, "Creating Experiences for Utilities".

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Michael Cahir
Author: Michael Cahir

I am passionate about helping organisations leverage technology to provide transformative business outcomes. Leveraging my background as an IT Application Manager and drawing upon a deep knowledge of IBM technology, I have gained over 30 years’ experience combining process automation and information management to create innovative technology solutions for asset centric industries.

07 March 2017