Why Connectivity is at the Base of the Future of Utilities

Why Connectivity is at the Base of the Future of Utilities

The future of utilities requires several layers of solutions all working together to address prime objectives. Beneath the analytics software that empowers decision making is the hardware providing the data and enabling communication. Beneath that connected hardware is a strong network, supporting the entire endeavor to push utilities into the digital future. Here’s a closer look at the challenges facing the sector and the different levels of technology aiming to address them.

Big Initiatives on the Horizon

There are some big goals and some big challenges facing the utilities sector, requiring a major rethinking of existing practices. For one, unprecedented weather events are on the rise, affecting the potential reliability of some services. Electric utilities need to assess resiliency planning in the face of a higher frequency of unpredictable situations.

Another example is the push toward decarbonization. Many utilities have already committed themselves to reduced carbon emissions and a move toward renewable energy sources, and more will soon follow. This shift will not only require strategic thinking, but also new ways of monitoring and reporting on ESG external and internal mandates.

Data Analytics Software

Weather resiliency and decarbonization are just two of the obstacles facing utility companies where the solutions will come in the form of data and analytics tools. In a search to improve their operations, utility companies are increasingly turning to cloud-based technologies.

For instance, Electronic Data Interchange systems can automate purchasing processes to enhance supply chain proficiency. After all, in a shifting business model, utilities need to collaborate with a greater and more varied set of suppliers and partners. They also need to create easier access to increasing amounts of information across different sites. Cloud software can pull apart information silos to better serve the goals of utilities companies.   

One prime example of a new industry trend requiring new technology is flexible load offerings. These rapidly growing programs allow for valuable real-time variability, but require increased distribution system control, heightened monitoring and data collection, and enhanced communication effectiveness. To empower the software to do its best work, utilities need to deploy new hardware to support it.  

 

Digital Technology

Initiatives like flexible load offerings to address sustainability goals can only be made possible through new digital technologies. This new generation of hardware is now arriving in the form of innovations like smart grids, distributed sensors, smart meters, and utilities’ video surveillance systems. Tools like these give accurate, live measurements of aspects like vibrations, temperature, and distribution, improving productivity, efficiency, and reliability.

By taking advantage of these and other IIoT utilities initiatives, companies delivering electricity, water, or natural gas can harness a new era of the industry as new utilities asset management and autonomous energy systems become available to address their needs.

Other secondary benefits also become available with these new technology deployments. For example, more remote devices bring digital worker enablement and digital mobility solutions into focus. Roles like field service engineers will be equipped with remote, instant access to vital information that pertains not only to performance but utilities worker safety too.

Network Solutions

Modernizing a utility grid with smart meters, sensors, and other cloud devices has the capacity to address so many challenges facing the utilities sector. However, introducing a glut of new connected devices and data requires a technological foundation to serve as groundwork. Critical equipment will mostly be online, so secure and reliable supporting networks are a must. For instance, a helpful introduction of a utilities’ push to talk communication system is only as strong as the network facilitating the messages being delivered. Underneath the new wave of digital systems, critical infrastructure will need a high performance industrial-grade connectivity to facilitate its operations. A robust network serves the digital hardware, which serves the data analytics software, which serves the actionable insights and real time decision-making needed to meet the emerging demands of utility companies everywhere.

To learn more about how Redline can aid in utilities’ digital transformation, click here.