Much has been made of the original three Vs of big data: volume, velocity and variety. Many have sought to add a fourth V that suits their own perspective on big data, with one of the strongest contenders being ‘value’.

Utilities are dealing with an unprecedented surge of data – from smart meters, modern network devices and retrofit sensors to multi-channel customer interactions and even social media in an endless stream of data of all types, shapes and sizes. According to a survey conducted by data analysts Teradata of more than 2,000 IT and operational professionals working in utilities, this surge in data has created several roadblocks including:

  • Too much volume for IT departments to keep up with
  • Time constraints that increase difficulty for business analysts
  • Lack of skilled resources to extract insights from the data
  • Limited processing capabilities.

According to the survey respondents, compounding these difficulties are bottlenecks caused by integration, complexity and performance. This has hindered utilities in putting their data to work. But it shouldn’t.

Overcoming roadblocks to find the value in data 

Utilities must gain return on investment from their data. Simply storing it is not enough. To find the value in their data, utilities must address the roadblocks discussed above to make their data useful.

In other words, to separate the signal from the noise, utilities must be able to extract meaningful new insights from their data – both from the many new sources, and those they are already used to working with. From these insights, the best businesses take immediate action so that outcomes critical to operations, planning, financial management, and of course, customers, are changed for the better.

A utility’s data becomes enormously valuable when it can be used to:

  • Target network investment based on granular and supportable data from multiple sources
  • Respond intelligently to variations in supply and demand because near real-time loads can be more accurately measured and predicted
  • Recognise fraud due to the identification of patterns in a geographical area, segmented group of consumers or specific meter
  • Automatically reroute network paths based on the prediction and early identification of failures
  • Identify the most valuable customers
  • Manage return on investment of marketing and communications spend.

Even better, the value of analytics can be claimed by both IT and the business. IT benefits include a flexible, scalable and robust data architecture that enables greater agility to gain greater depth of insight across many departments and many use cases. For the business, this is reflected in the capability to perform interactive analysis to extract insights that point to real actions that can be taken to achieve business objectives.

This might be in the form of new apps for a specific purpose, such as early identification of future network failures or for fraud detection; or new interactive reports for the CFO and the financial team on unit costing or operational efficiency; or user access to data discovery analytics previously only available to those hard-to-find data scientists.

Today, it’s simply not enough to focus only on the three Vs that may be top of mind as utilities grapple with the changes introduced by smart meters, network sensors, multi-channel customer interactions and the need to store, manage and integrate more and more data into the enterprise. Getting to the fourth V, value, requires analytics based on a single, centralised view of data – accessible to many, and for many use cases. This strategic approach is the secret to enabling your utility to gain business advantages from big data.

To find out more and to learn about Teradata utility customers visit www.teradata.com/industry-expertise/utilities.

Michelle is a freelance journalist and editor who, as well as covering all the latest and breaking industry news, is a gun proofreader and editor who never misses a trick.

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