Utilities entering the new data-driven era
For years, buying electricity, gas or water required an average of just nine minutes of engagement with a provider once a year. All that is changing: today’s digital customer expects an engaging, personalized digital service from their utility providers.
Furthermore, utilities are facing new competition from non-utility players with new, more agile business models. These new players — including Google, Tesla, Amazon, consumer electronics manufacturers, telecommunication companies and starts-up— have a stronger ability to extract value from data, and cut out the middle man in the utility market by offering a better customer experience. So how must energy companies respond to retain their customer base?
Dining out on data
Utilities must empower the customer, by providing them with the information they want and enabling them to manage their own interactions – at any time, from anywhere and on their preferred channel.
Utilities must also leverage the vast volumes of data being generated by new, digital interactions. This will enable them to offer their customers the services they want, change their behavior and build long-term relationships. The connected home offers a great opportunity to learn about individual customers and their behaviors.
With so many new possibilities emerging, utilities will struggle to design or test innovations with only their existing partners. The connected home, for example, provides an opportunity to pull in new partners. An open approach to innovation will require better collaboration within the wider ecosystem of partners.
The gateway to the connected home
The Atos Energy Big Data platform of services will enable utilities to manage these stakeholders.
Data is at the heart of the system and is based on the long-awaited smart meter that has finally arrived. Smart meters should allow consumers to regain control over their energy consumption while at the same time allowing the energy companies to develop new value-added services.
By measuring the overall electricity consumption of the household over a space of about ten minutes, the smart meter can provide a fair and precise reading, and will highlight, for example, the excessive consumption of a particularly energy-thirsty oven.
This detailed information, as well as the basic services of the smart meter, such as monitoring and providing recommendations, making comparisons with neighboring households, and power-cut information, means that consumers will be able to get their energy bills back under control. And, with the right information at their fingertips, they can look at what equipment they use and how they do so. Depending on the countries and the circumstances, there are other services that have been designed for the end user, such as pre-payment (for holiday homes, for example) or self-consumption.
For the energy companies, the smart meter represents an unrivalled opportunity for them to fulfil their true potential as an operator in a multifaceted market. On the one hand, it will enable them to combine their ecosystems with the creation of new services. However, it will also make possible genuinely beneficial customer relationships beyond engagement for mostly billing related queries.
Although the information is admittedly fairly basic at the moment, it is providing the foundations to enable utilities to provide personalized advice and, gradually new services too. The smart meter is a way for energy companies to get into the home and serve a legitimate, trusted and unique purpose which offers comfort and security, much in the same way as the telecoms operator does for communication and entertainment in the home. In this way, the smart meter becomes the equipment hub for running and supporting the connected household.
To develop these services, which are still in their early stages, the energy companies will need the support of a broad and diversified ecosystem: the insurance industry, mass retail sector, electrical appliance, household equipment and home automation suppliers, maintenance providers and CCTV operators, as well as innovative start-up companies. And, for coordinating and integrating all this, a partner with the necessary technological expertise!