BACKGROUND IMAGE: iSTOCK/GETTY IMAGES
Real-time business intelligence solutions are expected to be game changers for asset-intensive and field-force-driven enterprises, such as utilities. These solutions have become pervasive for enterprises to find value that had been “unseen” in the data before.
Utilities deal with an enormous amount and increasingly diverse set of data coming in from various sources. However, somewhere in this data deluge lays the path to a more efficient tomorrow. Data analytics gives them the power of insights to uncover significant events and identify trends in order to adapt quickly to ever-changing business dynamics.
From electricity distribution to demand response, water supply management to collecting meter readings, oil transmission to delivery, utility enterprises need flexible business processes to adopt intelligent capabilities in order to deliver vital services to their customers. Delivering the right information to the right people in the right format and at the right time is the significant aspect of real-time business intelligence (BI). It is the process of delivering information about business operations as they occur with minimum latency. Business intelligence solutions can help utilities make better decisions, support automation processes and help customers manage their utility lifestyles. This in turn can help optimize business decisions, improve operations and increase customer satisfaction.
Here is a breakdown of the five most obvious benefits of real-time business intelligence for utilities:
1. Optimizing asset performance
Identifying potential problems in field assets, grids and wells, utility distribution equipment can help avoid unplanned service interruptions in advance. Also, any delay in responding to an equipment’s failure and maintenance issues can lead to operational inefficiency. This inefficiency can be regulated by monitoring the performance and health of assets to predict decay points or equipment failure. Hence, analyzing real-time machine data or operational data can help solve these challenges. Real-time insights into asset health, peak periods, supply and demand analysis, and abnormal conditions can help improve asset performance.
Data analytics-driven business intelligence solutions that provide analyses via rich visuals and statistics are what utilities need to adopt. The capabilities provided by BI systems can help enhance the reliability, capacity and availability of the assets, which in turn improves asset performance. This can help ensure smoother operations at peak periods, eliminating downtime occurrence. It also allows them to trigger maintenance schedule operations at regular intervals to receive notifications on asset health.
2. Enhancing customer experience
Intelligence from IoT assets, smart grids and SCADA enriched with customer data can provide critical insights into a customer’s utility usage. Utilities can build systems of intelligence around the consumption pattern to empower consumers with usage insights and influence their usage behavior. Segmentation at a micro level to develop a 360-degree view of customer’s usage behavior can help bring the best possible ways to optimize their usage. Utilities can thus provide cost-effective plans delivering personalized experience, thereby improving loyalty, customer lifetime value and reducing customer churn. They can now provide customers with self-service intelligence capabilities to view and manage their utility usage, consumption pattern, historical usage, billing, payment and abnormal usage conditions.
As a good instructive example, find out how a team of asset data analytics consultants implemented BI capabilities for a giant water utility company to open a channel for water conservation and to deliver differentiated customer service.
3. Improving operational efficiency
Real-time business intelligence systems bring forth an interaction process for utility operators to proactively view and analyze operational data. BI dashboards enable them to monitor everything from meter reading to uptime for every single minute. It helps gain high visibility of historical comparison of asset performance, access real-time data and promptly react to make better decisions in a timely fashion. It also helps find opportunities to improve operational efficiency as and when an event occurs.
Dashboards also generate comprehensive performance reports to help utility operators develop an optimal course of action depending on specific key performance indicators. It also displays the overall performance of the assets in real time on a periodic basis, i.e., year-to-year, monthly, weekly, daily or hourly. These capabilities of business intelligence automate and help optimize asset performance, reduce risk and operational costs, and enhance business responsiveness.
4. Dynamic forecasting and load management
Business intelligence acts as a modelling platform to determine patterns, spot trends and understand predictable behavior in order to ramp up overall efficiency. Real-time and accurate utility demand forecasting is crucial to successfully managing supply and demand operations in a timely fashion. Utilities have to leverage real-time or historical data of consumption, usage, supply and weather constraints to perform complex analysis. This would help them to identify key performance indicators and patterns for dependable forecasting of asset failures and performance. They can also determine correlation between grid performance and grid conditions for maintenance.
Workflow improvements gained by integrating business intelligence solutions with existing automation processes can help avoid asset failures, thus resulting in asset longevity and higher uptime. Getting actionable insights, prescriptions and foresight is necessary for better decision making towards preventive maintenance, quality of service and outage management. The most efficient way to build systems of intelligence is to take advantage of an IoT and data analytics partner’s expertise to leverage Azure IoT and Cortana Intelligence Suite, which brings forth the powerful capabilities to transform data into intelligent actions.
5. Prevention of utility loss and fraud management
As enormous volumes of data streams driven from smart meters, grids and sensors become readily available, utilities can perform real-time and predictive analytics to gain critical insights. This can help operators continuously monitor the vital signs of utility distribution systems, reliably and quickly assess system integrity, and gain hidden insights. This in turn helps them in outage and fault detection, and to determine anomalies on supply-distribution lines, thereby optimizing utility distribution. Thus minimizing utility loss and providing early detection of supply, theft, leaks, consumption and over usage.
The bottom line
The benefits of real-time business intelligence are numerous, tangible and evident, which allows utilities to make faster and smarter decisions, whether it’s sending notifications to customers within minutes of an outage or responding to spikes in demand even before they happen. Thus, empowering utilities with the power of facts, transforming the way they do business forever. With business intelligence solutions, utilities can optimize asset performance, create visibility and boost operational efficiency that supports changing business processes. Utilities that infuse real-time intelligence systems into their business operations can secure their unique position in today’s market.
All IoT Agenda network contributors are responsible for the content and accuracy of their posts. Opinions are of the writers and do not necessarily convey the thoughts of IoT Agenda.