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Big Data drives business model transformation in utilities

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Big data analytics and forecasting software will become the cornerstone of business in utilities

LONDON, ENGLAND: The emergence of a new set of business needs, driven by changes in the energy landscape, has led utilities to deploy intelligent energy networks. Implementation of sensing and metering devices will enable access to new data and trigger a data explosion that necessitates the use of data management solutions, in turn boosting the prospects of ICT providers in the energy industry.

New analysis from Frost & Sullivan, Data-driven Utilities, finds that big data analytics and forecasting software will become the cornerstone of business in utilities and will bring significant growth opportunities for ICT vendors.

"With the emergence of smart grids, utilities will start exploiting new data sources - grid sensors, smart meters, and electric vehicles - to optimize their business and provide better customer services," said Frost & Sullivan Information and Communication Technologies Research analyst, Ewa Tajer. "Starting from reporting, billing and settlement, they will test new technologies and add new sources of data to their data management systems to build analytics capabilities."

Energy companies will also be forced to improve customer interaction by leveraging social media and various Web data. However, they have neither the requisite skills nor vision to handle big data. In fact, the main challenge delaying business model transformation is the lack of expertise and infrastructure, along with tight budgets and the perception of risk. There is no doubt, therefore, that advanced ICT solutions are the way forward.

Cost will be an important factor for customers in short-listing analytical projects and technologies for large-scale deployment. Many technologies are still considered too expensive and will not be adopted unless their deployment is fully justified economically. Some utilities thus opt for cloud computing and software as a service (SaaS) analytics to unlock data potential in a cost-effective manner.

"Cloud computing may be the answer to overcome utilities' hesitancy in deploying advanced analytics solutions," noted Tajer. "Certain utilities have already moved part of their processes - mostly non-critical ones - to the cloud, and smaller energy companies, in particular, are expected to increase investment in cloud computing over the next few years."

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