Technology Priorities for Utilities in 2016

This past Thanksgiving, like many before it, energy, transportation, and communications were at the heart of my break:

  • A lot of crowdsourced energy produced one heckuva spread this year
  • A lot of travel to see family, pick up supplies, and to ship off gifts
  • Scrolling through my social/mobile feed for news, deals, and catching up with family & friends all over the world

Now that the holiday has come and gone, I am digesting a large volume of...data!

Specifically, I am digesting insights about the technology priorities of executives going into 2016.

This end of year, I have reviewed reams of surveys, reports, case studies, and interviewed utilities and transportation authorities across the country, as well as solution providers. From all of this, I have compiled my…

List of Top 5 Technology Priorities for Executives in Energy/Water/Transportation

  1. Analytics/Business Intelligence - As our systems become more complex, situational awareness becomes more and more critical. Every utility, DOT, transportation authority and tech exec I sat with has a migration plan that is underway.
  2. Cloud - I refer to one of my big finds from the year: There is a growing internal debate across industries around how and when to migrate to a cloud. And to what end? IT, cyber, security, and operations teams everywhere are drawing lines on this issue, and I'd like to get these voices to the table to discuss this more, and build a common set of values and rules for moving forward. Building good faith goes a long way toward sparking collaboration across divisions.
  3. Mobile - Turning to mobile for operational efficiency falls in line with a larger trend of putting humans at the center of solutions by applying remote intelligence and decision-making. Mobile support for field teams, first responders and operators will grow operational efficiency and lead to improvements in KPIs across transportation and energy just in the nick of time.

But here's the rub: Just as customers seek more control, modern governance and accounting is going to be hands-on and at your field teams' fingertips. Increasing the comfort of your team while reducing the costs—this will be a big hit with rank and file in 2017, but for 2016, there will be growing pains and a lot of learning.

  1. Digitalization - And so ends "Smart Grid". Whether it's Intel or Siemens, or some other solution provider, the IoT platform of the future will be built from a digital foundation. We are far down this digitalization road, and AIG anticipates over 2 billion infrastructure-based connected devices in the U.S. by 2020.

A question for 2016: In the rush toward the future, are we giving up on analog simultaneously? If so, is that a good thing?

  1. Data Centers/Management - I'm hearing about four key issues in data management, whether it is meeting with fleet managers, transportation authorities, public works staff, system planners, utility execs or security officials:
  • Variety - Data now has a lifecycle of its own, and they can tell an interesting story, if you compile them right
  • Volume - The sheer magnitude of the data requires alignment across planning, operations, strategy, finance and IT
  • Value - Turning data into actionable intelligence means answering what problems you are trying to solve
  • Velocity - Speed at which the data feed into systems and performance

To close out, here are some areas worth mentioning that didn’t crack the Top 5:

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning: So much in store—this field will probably have the greatest year-over-year growth in priority from now to 2017.

CybersecurityI am thankful for what people are doing in this realm, but I am surprised yet again that security (physical and cyber) fell just short of the top 5 list. As I said in the kickoff article for our ETS16 event, I am really surprised we went the year without that big cybersecurity breach in energy/transportation. I am not happy or joyous about that; I am urgently concerned that we need to bring our best efforts to bear on this issue, across industry, government, R&D and all the other partners in our fields.

Want to share your own input? We are releasing our first ever Chaos Index Survey, looking at the role that technology is having in changing the energy, water and transportation landscapes.

You can take the survey here, and we will share the findings at ETS16, March 29th, 2016.

In closing, each one of these priorities is intertwined with policy, standards, and business model changes underway across our economy. Next year, 2016, will be a landmark year for each of these technology priorities.

What questions do you have?