Some utilities are upgrading their electrical grids, replacing neighborhood meter readers with smart meters that continually monitor household power consumption. According to a new study from Oracle, that could turn staid old electrical companies into Big Data powerhouses.
Oracle surveyed 151 North American executives at utilities with smart meter programs for its "Big Data, Bigger Opportunities" study. On average, they reported smart meters generated 180 times more data than the traditional meters. That creates opportunities for utilities on the customer service front and for IT vendors that specialize in Big Data.
"Smart grid deployments are creating exponentially more data for utilities and giving them access to information they have never had before," said Rodger Smith, senior vice president and general manager of Oracle Utilities in a statement announcing the results.
According to Oracle’s findings, "the vast majority of utility executives are working to enhance their ability to glean real intelligence from smart grid data -- to ultimately create new opportunities to improve service reliability and deliver useful information to customers," he added.
Big Data Priorities, Challenges
Encouragingly, utilities seem fairly well prepared to handle the massive volumes of data generated by smart grids. On a scale of one to 10, respondents rated themselves a solid 6.7 on their readiness to manage Big Data. Nonetheless, many are encountering challenges in making Big Data work for them.
Forty five percent of respondents said they "still struggle to report information to business managers as fast as they need it," according to Oracle. Their customers are missing out, too. Of those surveyed, 50 percent reported missing opportunities to deliver useful information to their customer base.
Utilities will need to surmount those hurdles quickly. According to Oracle, they plan to use Big Data to improve customer service over the next five years. Other goals include minimizing outages, complying with regulatory requirements and incorporating demand response -- a technology that helps prevent blackouts by dynamically adjusting the electrical demand of participating customers based on the strain placed on the grid.
As it stands now, top priorities include generating actionable intelligence from mountains of data. Utilities are also placing a premium on using Big Data to drive their strategic decision making.
Where's a smart utility to turn? "Utilities can benefit from establishing enterprise information strategies, and investing in the systems and people needed to make better business decisions," Smith suggested.