There are a few U.S. industries that face a fundamental transformation in the next few years. The utility industry is one of them.
Amidst increased competition from solar and wind energy organizations, utility companies find themselves trying to resolve a host of issues: Aging infrastructure, regulatory uncertainties, and customers cutting back on consumption to save money.
One of the ways utilities are fighting back is by increasing their own competitiveness. They are enhancing their service offerings (such as recommending smart meters), provide better customer service, become more responsive and, of course, optimize their operations to become more productive. Helping some of these business objectives become a reality are mobile and cloud strategies.
Mobile solutions are not a new occurrence in utilities, however, they have mostly been used in outage and other emergency situations. Now, some companies choose to redesign their entire workflow around mobile and cloud by allowing their field workforce to schedule appointments, request information, report on projects, order parts, and communicate with their managers and customers directly from the mobile devices. And by doing so, companies are empowering every customer-facing technician to become the best representation of the whole organization.
One of the examples of strategic mobile adoption is smart metering. With smart meters, utility companies get better access to the information stored in the cloud about energy usage and route electricity to areas where it is needed most while saving money in places where it is least in demand.
Standard meters have no way of communicating usage data and must be read manually by a meter reader. In comparison, smart meters come with two-way communication — utility companies can leverage this by arming their field technicians with sophisticated mobile apps that are able to communicate with them during installation, maintenance and inspection jobs. This requires direct communication between the field worker’s handset, the connected asset and the company back-end systems. Doing away with manual readings saves utility companies both time and effort on the part of the technicians as well as dramatically increases data accuracy being collected from the field.
For IT managers, some benefits of cloud and mobile deployment might be obvious, others, such as safety and regulation compliance, may be overlooked. The most successful implementations, though, come from realizing the full spectrum of benefits cloud and mobile can provide to industrial enterprise. The most fundamental cost reduction and increased revenues come from:
Still, with numerous benefits of mobile and cloud, in the past, IT managers voiced valid concerns about deployment times, costs, and custom configurations. Fortunately, the latest technological innovations allowed automation providers deploy mobile solutions in industrial environment within a couple of weeks, often by using utility-specific configurable off-the-shelf (COTS) solutions that can fit unique processes and workflows.
The advancements and custom fit of mobile and cloud in utilities space create great opportunities for companies that want to get a leg up on the competition. The question is, which of your IT clients will take advantage of them faster?