Torgeir Brovold, Head of the Energy Sector at Cognizant Norway, recently hosted a session at the digital Smartgrid conference. The focus was on digitalization of the energy industry and obstacles and opportunities linked to turning available data into valuable insights. Here are some of the matters discussed.
Operations within grid companies as well as the power industry in general generate large amounts of data. How can that data be tapped on its value? How can the industry utilize it to perform more adequate prognosis, to make better informed decisions, and to make overall operations more efficient?
There are plenty of sensors on the equipment, and increasingly so thanks to the ongoing modernization and expansion of the network. The challenge is to collect, structure, make available and translate existing data into valuable insights.
Data as a business driver
The power and energy industry has long benefited from stable and predictable conditions. Data utilization is thus historically considered as a technology matter more than a lever for improved business. As the speed of innovation increases everywhere, the energy sector needs to reconsider this; availability of valuable data is now a business prerequisite for any company.
“Collecting data and extracting insights from the entire network, from production to the electricity meters, will strengthen the capability to provide useful services,” says Torgeir Brovold. “It makes it easier to plan for maintenance and upgrades as well as increases the understanding of what customers really want.”
Struggling with legacy systems
To succeed, companies need a reliable, modern IT platform. Still, the power and energy industry holds large numbers of legacy systems that are a burden in this context.
“Many power and grid companies experience that they have become stuck with a traditional system portfolio and an outdated IT infrastructure,” says Torgeir Brovold. “The perception of IT as a cost rather than a means for innovation has long been the norm.”
A cornerstone in succeeding, is about standardizing the information architecture. By having more people on the same platform, the infrastructure can be operationalized and provide economy of scale. In addition, data can be shared and democratized across the company for an improved overview.
Finding new technology partners
The ever-increasing pace of innovation also sheds light on the need for trustworthy technology partners that can support development. Traditionally, the industry has been characterized by strict regulations that have also framed investments and innovation. The future is more about non-mandatory collaboration in order to meet customer expectations, while also accomplishing compliance.
Fostering a more collaborative culture is also a question about securing digital competence, an issue that challenges every traditional sector. Luckily, the major players within the industry are already positive to sharing both competence and data. There is also a widespread understanding that the whole sector will benefit from standardized systems.
Where do you start then? Accept that data utilization is something of a step-by-step journey, where the good news is that you can create great value from data that you already have.
To read more on this subject, also check out the article about the industry's need for platform modernization (in Norwegian).