Should the Utilities & Energy sectors be considering Data Lakes?

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In my other life as the host of the North East’s premier innovation event ‘Innovate Now’, I get to hear about the amazing work being done across all kinds of industries and the benefits they bring to other businesses in other industries. At a recent event, John Ferguson, Architecture Innovation and Governance Lead at Nissan gave a talk on Industry 4.0 and some of things that are possible when looking to future technology to address challenges.

One of the things that he mentioned really stuck with me. I’ll admit this is mostly because of their slightly whimsical name, but it turns out that Data Lakes could also be of massive benefit to energy and utilities management too.

Data is knowledge

However intangible it appears, data is not something to be taken lightly. Processing and storing data is a very important thing for any business to get right. Considering how it can come from various sources and be transmitted and received in many different formats data has the potential to drive strategy, foster detailed analyses and ultimately influence decision making. Therefore, it’s paramount that the processing and gathering of data is structured and efficient.

Data lakes are exactly as they sound, a large platform designed to store and analyse a large quantity of information from various data sources. Using this technology, we can store different types of data in their original form, whilst also extracting, combining, correlating, and utilising according to the needs of each business.

Why Utilities?

Now from an energy or utilities management point of view, I really like this concept of data lakes. Reason being is that there are multiple types and sources of data that any energy provider or consumer will use. For example, energy consumption, times of consumption, machines that most use energy, least use energy etc. It’s even common place these days to see suppliers provide their own monitoring systems.

All that data is more from an operational standpoint, however there’s plenty of other data out there that you’d have to consider. What about material costs? Contracts to manage? Forecasts? Budgets?

Traditionally this data would sit separately on a different platform, managed by a different department, seen by only a few people in a business. However with a data lake this could all be stored in one place, open to everyone and ready for new associations and correlations to be made.

Advantages?

We live in a very joined up time now and it’s my belief that the use of data lakes would allow us to spot inefficiencies faster, draw quicker conclusions from things that would have previously seemed unrelated and, on a more broad note, introduce a culture of strong data management and empowerment through all levels of a business.

It’s likely that there would be some investment required with regard to data visualisation software. In an article from last year, Nick Ismail said that “Visual analytics make the big picture accessible”. There’s a few different ways of doing this ranging from dashboards all the way to XR solutions. The important thing is to make sure that you don’t need to be a developer in order to understand the data that is being made available.

This presents energy suppliers with an interesting opportunity to bundle some of these data processing methods together into a package offering> By better assisting people to make the most of their big data, suppliers can more deeply engrain themselves into the day to day operations of their enterprise clients.

What do you think? Is your company already making use of your data to provide better insights? If they are, where? And if they aren’t, where do you think they could be better utilising data?

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08 Aug
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