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Leveraging Patterns – VI

Smart grids are based on data. Data, coming from a variety of sources, including weather forecast!, are used to predict loads and prepare for production. With the DX it becomes interesting the use of data created in a smart grid (derived from its operation) to transform a Power Utility into an Info Provider. The graphic shows the architecture of using data FOR the operation of a Smart Grid. The next step is to leverage on those date to provide informatin services to third parties (starting, obviously) from the power utility users. Image credit: Smart Grid Workshop, Texas A&M University, 2016

Looking a bit further into the future, smart grids can become widespread sensors, covering a factory, a city, a railway infrastructure, a whole region or Country.For sure smart grids will need plenty of data for balancing power demand with power offering and these data are both generated and used within the Power Utility. However, in a Digital Transformation perspective where the Power Utility leverages on the data it owns, one can well imagine that data analytics can generate interesting bits of information that can be sold (as services).

The trick, of course, is to generate actionable information, information that can make a difference in a decision process and this depends on the potential user (usage).

Large power users can benefit from information about the usage patterns and can leverage on the insight of changing patterns. 

As an example, cities can use these changing patterns to get the pulse of the city, how many citizens are actually present in a certain area and even get a rough idea of their current needs, thus being able to dynamically plan city services (better service provision at lower cost).

Detecting and analysing citizens patterns is clearly important for a municipality. What used to take months in delivering and analysing questionnaires can now be done on a continuous bases and this allows learning over time and detection of anomalous/unexpected patterns. A power utility can become an information provider to the municipality. It can even embed this in the illumination service to the city, differentiating illumination levels based on the citizens’ movements patterns.

Likewise towards an industry or even a Country were patterns of energy use can provide valuable information for organising processes and designing policies. Industry 4.0 by creating a mesh of players can benefit from power usage pattern analyses to streamline processes in real time.

It is actually difficult to foresee all possible uses of electricity pattern data but my bet is that these will become more and more important and “sellable”. Besides, they can be used as a marketing lever providing users with meaningful insight and guidance on better use of power.

The key here is “meaningful”: until power utilities will keep talking about KW/h it will be difficult for end user to understand the meaning. They need to change the measuring unit to $, £, €, whatever. Currency is a measure that is immediately understood by end users. Show them their pattern of use with the attached “cost” and then tell them what difference it will make, in hard currency, if they can shift to a different pattern. Saying that a fridge is in class A or A+ means very little. Saying that such appliance will cost in terms of power 100$ whilst another will cost 50$ a year, well, that is something people understand and can take decision on.
In the case of a city the difference can be measured in million of $ per year.
This is one of the crucial point in the Digital Transformation. As we shift from atoms to bits we miss the kind of understanding that we have been used to. Making sure that the cyberspace can be understood as well (actually better) than the physical world is a challenge that when met will eventually become a competitive advantage.

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the New Initiative Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He is a member of the IEEE in 2050 Ad Hoc Committee. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.