Moving to the Edge: Whilst Cloud computing has been increasingly prevalent in the world of utilities, this year we expect to see more Edge computing come to the fore, where by utilities companies will have their technologies in the field, next to their equipment and use IoT to connect the Cloud and physical worlds together. This can be used for image analysis and recognition which can be used to identify any problems, quality issues or security threats. An example of this in practice would be a water company installing a camera at the Edge to observe the aeration bubble patterns in order to see when the pipes are getting clogged up and need tending to. The company would then be alerted, and an engineer deployed to fix the problem.
Energy harvesting: As utilities companies move their data over to Edge computing, they will also begin to look at ways to reduce the cost of deploying and harvesting this data, moving away from the need of battery and mains power. Companies will be looking at how they can harvest and store energy through power sensors, using thermal or physical movement to generate power and save costs.
Open Data: Previously, utilities companies have been primarily asset based. However, as they harvest increasing amounts of data, thanks to the new digital landscape, we will see them move from asset intensive businesses to data and information intensive businesses. As a result, we will see more use of open data in the industry, sharing information in the ecosystem and third parties. This new realm of open data will forge alliances in the ecosystem and encourage companies to work closer together, enabling them to view satellite imagery more easily, build new applications for processes and empower them to become more data and insight driven as well as collaborative.
Moving beyond AI and to Digital Twins: Digital Twins is when companies build digital models of the physical world, creating a digital replica or ‘twin’. Through Digital Twins, utilities companies can run simulations of their equipment, such as pumps for instance, and harness data and insights of these simulations. This is where utilities companies can move beyond AI, which so far has been used for predictive maintenance. Now however, we will see companies use this intelligence to action real change by bringing all of the systems together to truly optimise them and drive value. This will be where the real reward and cost savings can be reaped from AI.
All about security: With all of these developments, the one trend that underpins them all is security. Security needs to be built and embedded into all systems, products, devices and technology and should never be an afterthought. Security needs to be incorporated in an organisations’ core and play a fundamental part of the processes and polices to protect the systems and data harvested. Ultimately, a denial of service attack when a business is a service provider, is in fact denying the business to function.