Data Analytics Is an Essential Step in Current Utility Operations

By Shannon Flynn | Nov 16, 2022
Transmission towers and buildlings silhouetted against the sunset. Image by iStock.
Virtually every industry is becoming increasingly data-driven to keep up with today’s fast-paced business landscape.




Virtually every industry is becoming increasingly data-driven to keep up with today’s fast-paced business landscape. Big data solutions are essential for modern companies, as they help streamline operations, boost productivity and meet the bottom line. 

The utility industry is undergoing a major overhaul in terms of digitization. Companies understand they must evolve in the era of big data, which involves adopting new technologies, updating operational processes and keeping up with ever-changing demands. As data analytics becomes more prevalent in utility operations, it will play a vital role in this industry’s growth and can offer important benefits.

Itron, which offers solutions for energy and water resource management, released a 2022 report analyzing how utility companies and cities were leveraging data analytics solutions. It discusses key findings from surveys of 600 utility executives and 600 informed customers from five countries, including the United States, Spain, India, the United Kingdom and Australia.

Itron’s report suggests that more than 9 out of 10 survey participants agree that leveraging real-time data analytics insights is very important. Disruptors in the industry are evolving, requiring the latest solutions to keep up and improve C-suite decision-making. For instance, electric companies handling pole inspections and inventories are notoriously siloed, meaning departments often neglect the company’s data needs, according to a March 2022 report from utility software provider Ike. Pole inspection and inventory data must be reformatted to prepare it for new data analytics. 

This is only one example, but consider the other types of utilities and how many departments could benefit from a more comprehensive data management and analytics solution. Utility executives know that harnessing the power of data for analysis is something they must adapt to in the next few years.

Itron’s report also suggests that personalized utility insights for customers could be a major trend in the industry going forward. Companies that offer customers the ability to gain insight into their energy and water systems enable them to make better decisions regarding their bills and energy consumption. The report even suggests people are willing to pay more if providers offer personalized insights. 

Eco-friendly consumers can also choose new electrical, water or heating and cooling systems to improve energy-efficiency and create a more environmentally friendly home or business.

 Data analytics can also benefit utilities in terms of cybersecurity. Utilities are not immune from cyberattacks—in fact, the energy and utility sector is a major target for cybercrime, according to a July 2022 article in IIOT Power.

It’s no surprise that threat actors target these companies as more tech emerges in the field. They see an expanded attack surface and an increased likelihood of making a significant profit from attacking critical infrastructure. Any utility company must therefore understand the importance of cybersecurity as analytics becomes ubiquitous. These solutions must have various preventive security measures to be used effectively, whether water or electric utility data analytics.

According to the report, in the next five years, utilities will leverage data analytics capabilities, particularly those with compatible edge intelligence devices. The industrial internet of things and other advanced analytics devices will play a crucial role in effective analytics.

Leveraging tech investments equipped with edge computing technologies is a no-brainer for utilities. They can collect massive amounts of operational data while decreasing latency, ultimately speeding up decision-making processes.

Operating at the edge could have a major impact on the quality of life of utility customers due to the increasing severity of weather events. Managing extreme conditions is a challenge for utilities, but the edge is a transformational technology expected to increase efficiency and facilitate faster response times to significant events.

The report further notes that while utility companies might struggle to adopt and implement new data analytics solutions, these tools will become indispensable in the digital age.

Now is the time for leaders in the energy and utility industry to stay abreast of current trends, explore opportunities with data analytics vendors and begin the procurement process. The future of utilities will increasingly rely on data analytics solutions and the benefits they provide.

About The Author

Shannon Flynn is a freelance writer. Reach her at [email protected].

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