Analytics for cheaper and greener utility behavior

Posted on: May 23, 2017 by

In domestic, commercial and civic use of electricity, it would be great if everybody’s default position was “choose the greenest option”. Unfortunately, it’s not like that.

When we think about consumption at all, most of us just look for the cheapest option. But much of the time, we hardly think about either cost or environmental impact: the sun goes down, the lights come on and we pay what it costs. If changes in behavior need too much thought, or cause any inconvenience, they are ignored or soon forgotten. But there’s no need for it to be like that.

As a society, we are now in a position to change our behavior in ways that make electricity consumption both greener and cheaper – and intelligent analytics will make an essential contribution to this change.

Changing boxes and behavior

Smart meters and intelligent thermostats become essential components in promoting more responsible and cost-effective behaviors. More and more domestic appliances have consumption smarts designed-in: if your home media center dips to near-zero consumption on stand-by, this helps too.

The real change, however, will be driven by education and not by boxes – and the utility provider has a critical role to play here. But it will not simply be a matter of the utility preaching to the domestic or commercial consumer.

Service models have become more complex, and the learning and dialogue will be built around far more articulated discussion and collaboration.

Where, for example, regional government is active in the commissioning and even the management of local renewables, then the conversation needs to flow between the utility, the local authority and the community.

And it’s not just conversation that flows. Ideas for new collaborative ventures flow too – and this must become the core incentive in data-driven innovation.

Incentive and data-derived value

Most utility data currently delivers little value. The potential of smart meters, for example, is hardly touched for now. A minute subset of the potential data assets is used in billing applications, and that’s about it.

The barrier here, as always, is more cultural rather than technical.

The utility client is reticent about sharing data of any kind, and the willingness to open up and contribute to new data-driven initiatives is still overshadowed by concerns for privacy and big brother intrusion.

But if through intelligent communication and collaboration, we can raise awareness of how responsibly shared data becomes an essential ingredient in the pursuit of more sustainable and less costly consumption, the benefits to all will be enormous.

It’s early days – but it’s happening already

We are already beginning to see utilities collaborating with smart building experts to offer their clients a new generation of smart home services.

In Grenoble, Atos is a prime contributor to a major European smart city initiative, in which everything from street lighting and traffic control systems through to building central heating systems is being redefined by data-driven analytics.

And the success of these initiatives is dependent not so much on new data analytics and cognitive technologies, but on the willingness of citizens to participate in pursuit of communal and indeed personal benefit – what’s good for the community is, after all, good for the individual.

Pushing the trend

In Grenoble, we see the desire to apply data analytics to the challenge of creating more sustainable and cost-effective cities.

But this is not a local phenomenon in greener and cheaper living. It’s part of a wider trend in utility practice, as service providers seek to use analytics in building better and more extended customer relationships.

In a commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Atos, over the next twelve months, 51% of utilities are planning to use analytics in the development of smart home services for deeper customer engagement.

Atos is keen to facilitate discussion between utilities, local government, start-ups and smart building companies and, of course, consumers and citizens. The development of new data analytics and cognitive approaches is gaining real momentum, and we are eager to be active in driving the application to greener and cheaper practice for all.

If you’d be interested in learning more about Atos Codex, our offering for data-driven insights, or in participating in a specialist innovation workshop on analytics for utilities and the smart city, do get in touch.

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