smart grid tech future

A few days ago we explored the first five utility industry predictions for 2014, according to analysts at IDC. Each of IDC's 10 total predictions bears some significant relevance to smart grids and smart grid technology. Here are the smart grid implications of IDC's final five predictions:

6. Dynamic resilience is key to surviving in a changing utility ecosystem. The utility business once was stable and predictable, but these days it's getting harder for utilities to make long-term plans. Also, the potential for major outages and other disruptions is increasing.

IDC notes that in the long term, "Cooperation and shared infrastructure will likely become an economic requirement as systems complexity becomes untenable for even the most capable utility." Smart grid technology is needed to help utilities connect and work effectively with external systems ranging from home and building automation systems, to third-party generation and microgrids, to regional power distribution networks and more.

7. Data management: a growing challenge for smart grid innovation. Smart grids produce lots of potentially useful data -- but realizing this potential requires addressing some huge data management issues.

IDC notes: "While data volume and granularity are increasingly available from various sources, harmonizing utility systems data follows few conventions. Utilities will be increasingly pressed to 'rapidly' integrate new data sets for short-term efficiency plays and long-term new business value creation. Cloud technology will provide a viable approach to affordably, securely and flexibly adapt to business realities of constrained budgets. Expect non-traditional vendors to address the control systems space."

8. Multi-channel customer management will require investments in platforms and architecture. Increasing profitability, decreasing costs, and improving customer satisfaction in a time of rising customer expectations won't happen for free. Smart grid technology (especially meter data management) can help utilities meet these business and service goals.

According to IDC: "Utilities will move towards the creation of a unified customer-centric IT platform. More apps requested by customers will be easier to develop using this platform as a foundation. Advanced customer intelligence and analytics will play a pivotal role in understanding customers' engagement preferences."

9. Gamification will help utilities create consumer engagement, loyalty and trust. This IDC prediction is a bit on the bleeding edge, but it holds some promise. Customer energy usage data provided via smart meters can be presented via game-like interfaces that help consumers understand and meet goals, collaborate with utilities and neighbors, and even compete for efficiency or other metrics. IDC notes: "Early indications for gamifying utilities seem positive. Utilities are wondering if gamification is strong enough to sustain consumer engagement over long periods, and whether the positive behavioral changes they inspire are sustained thereafter."

10. Globally, utility IT spending will surpass $59.3 Billion in 2014. IDC cited a number of statistical projections for this claim, but did not break out this spending by IT category. However, in October Gartner predicted that worldwide, utility IT spending would grow to 3.3% in 2014 (up from 2% in 2013). "Infrastructure modernization initiatives such as smart grid create stronger areas of opportunity by pulling increased IT spending along with OT investments," Gartner said.

In December, GTM Research estimated the value of the global utility data analytics market at a cumulative $20 billion between 2013 and 2020. Much of the data that these systems analyze comes from smart grid and related technologies.

See part 1, addressing IDC's 2014 predictions 1-5.


Photo Credit: Smart Grid Tech and Utilities/shutterstock