Have you every followed the Earth Hour? It is a movement started by World Wide Fund for Nature, which encourages individuals and businesses to turn off electric lights for an hour on specific days as a symbol of commitment to the planet. The movement has got great engagement from over 7,000 cities in 172 countries. What if someone tells you that you can follow the Earth Hour all through the year? Of course, it does not mean turning off the lights all through the year – it is much simpler than that. The answer is Smart Meters.
Using a Smart Meter helps you make small and thoughtful changes in the way you use electricity at your home and reduce the energy wastage – thereby taking a small step towards protecting the planet by reducing the greenhouse effect. Energy experts believe that with the increase in the usage of everything electric - right from the cars to household items, the energy systems also need to become “smart”.
There are already millions Smart Meters installed all over the world. The advanced metering infrastructure is getting better and stronger every day. The next challenge for utilities and grid planners is to take advantage of the vast amount of data being generated through these smart devices. When billions of data points are being logged every day, the companies are looking for ways to convert this data into actionable insights which can help them run more efficient operations, empower individual customers, and improve the overall reliability.
A few years ago, for one of my clients, who was a leading Industrial Gas Manufacturing company in the US,- proposition about an integrated IoT solution for Smart Meter Data Analytics for 'condition based monitoring and analytics'. The proposed integrated M2M and IoT (Internet of Things) solution was to avoid their revenue leakage by few thousands of USD($) per 1000 meters per one month - amounting to a huge saving of few ‘hundred thousand’ of USD($) in a year for every thousand meters based on Cause and Effect Analysis (Fish-bone Diagrams)! Like this there are huge count of meters across USA for phase-wise deployment. Let me share more information on this interesting case.
The automated meter reading equipment, systems and mechanism used by the company had several issues such as – the different meter types, different makes and different features based on manufacturing year, various configurations and applications created a lot of variation in data, the systems were sometimes not able to capture the accurate data, and the incorrect data collection caused undesired system behavior. All such issues were leading to customer dissatisfaction, revenue leakage, incorrect billing, and longer repair cycles in case of meter repairs and meter misbehavior. Proposition is to develop an integrated IoT solution with UI-based scheduling, Analytical Framework (for meter data analytics, customer analytics, operational analytics, and trend analytics for billing accuracy), anomaly identifications, and easy to use dashboards for getting a quick overview of performance, activities, and events.
Further the said proposed IoT enabled solution led to efficiency improvement through real-time activity scheduling, reduction in support efforts, workforce optimization, minimization of revenue losses and of course, a much greater customer satisfaction.
Also, on additional note that the said IoT Solution lead to monetizing either through licensing which would be based on number of meter processed, or number of incident identified, OR pay as go model – SaaS base model.
Analytics – The Source of Truth
Let us understand the various types insights which can be gathered from Smart Meter Data Analytics for condition based monitoring & analytics –
Customer Analytics –
It helps in understanding the customer behavior. Based on the customer segment and usage patterns, the distributors can create actual load curves and offer attractive pricing to customers.
Data Analytics -
It helps in identifying anomaly and abnormal condition, meter misbehaving pattern for specific conditions, and sometimes even mystery problems which appear intermittently because of which supplier likely to lose revenue.
Asset Analytics –
By combining the smart meter data and the distributor’s energy delivery model, this type of analytics allows Gas Manufacturing companies and Utilities to plan and perform preventative maintenance to assets and avoid unplanned outages and additionally even overcome limitations of specific asset. For the under-utilized assets, costs can be saved by delaying the maintenance.
Financial Analytics –
This type of analytics help Gas Manufacturing companies and Utilities can leverage real-time monitoring and detect and stop losses which happen through fraud or theft. This has a significant impact on the overall finances.
Billing Analytics –
With the billing prediction analytics, the customers can see their likely bill and the contributing factors well before the billing cycle ends. The projected costs can help them optimize their energy usage and improve the energy performance.
Analytics – The Opportunities
The Smart Meter Data Analytics present a host of new opportunities to Gas Manufacturing companies and Utilities, such as -
Outage Identification and Prevention -
With Smart Metering, gas manufacturing companies and utilities don’t need to physically send any personnel to confirm a problem. The outage event analysis can provide this data to Gas manufacturing companies / Utilities and they can exactly know the equipment or part which is causing a problem. Such granular view of outage information along with the meter readings can help in tracking outages proactively without having to wait for an intimation from the customer about the outage. The outage report can also help them know the problem areas in distribution network and the overall impact of outages, thereby allowing them to isolate the areas of high impact and then work on them.
Unbilled Revenue -
Smart Meter Data Analytics help Gas Manufacturing companies and Utilities understand the usage patterns for its customers. This can help in detecting the cases of theft or meter tampering OR even revenue losses because of abnormal conditions or anomalies.
Operational Efficiencies -
Through data analytics, Gas manufacturing companies and Utilities are able to reduce back-office exceptions, reduce the process time for exceptions, and maintain the assets in an optimized manner. The overall reduction in internal information technology maintenance and field investigations lead to operational efficiencies through better resource planning and prioritization.
Customer Segmentation -
Analytics enable Gas manufacturing companies and Utilities to better segment the customers based on consumption patterns. Such consumption metrics empower the Gas manufacturing and Utility companies to launch targeted marketing programs, develop special rates, accurately load forecasts, and reduce carbon emissions. Further even it contributed immensely for scheduling, planning and distribution aspects and positive impact of overall supply chain.
With big data and analytics, Utilities and Gas Manufacturing companies are aiming to transform into more proactive and responsive businesses. Today, IoT enabled smart data analytics is the key to creating competitive advantage. Using the right meter data management platform with a solid data analytics engine, they will be able to better serve the needs of the customers and adapt to the fast-changing world of energy provisioning – and yes, I am saying this based on my personal experience of helping Gas Manufacturing companies and Utilities for saving thousands of dollars through the effective proposition of use of IoT technology.
If you want to discuss how you can leverage the IoT revolution, connect with me on LinkedIn and I will be happy to chat with you!