What better way to kick off the next decade of Utility innovation than with hundreds of Utilities and vendors sharing the technologies, solutions and best practices they see shaping the future of our industry. And once again, the TMG team was out in full force last week cataloging and evaluating how this next generation of innovation is evolving.
Which technologies gained the most traction over the past year? What new digital innovations are vendors working? How are their clients integrating these solutions within their businesses? And above all, what results are they achieving?
Last week, our team met with over 50 vendors and utilities who we believe are on the leading edge of creating real change for the customers and the communities they serve. Of course, there were the typical “large actors” whose investments in innovation never cease to impress. But for every one of these mega-players, there were new companies (including many upstarts) on the scene who, seemingly out of nowhere, were turning heads with their new and disruptive solutions that were already moving the needle.
What was common to almost all of the technologies and solutions we cataloged was the degree of emphasis placed on digitalization as the engine of innovation for tomorrow’s utilities. While many of these technologies served different purposes and applications, the common thread running through them was using data-driven insights to improve customer experience, optimize infrastructure, manage risks and deliver new sources of community value.
Some of the biggest “take-aways” from our team from the past week:
- Data is still everything – No surprises here – this is the heart of digitalization. But was once a discussion about warehousing of data has shifted to the “decentralization” and “democratization” of data- how to unshackle it from the native applications they have historically been hostage within.
- Making smart meters smarter – super interesting developments here from ALL the major meter vendors (and even some interesting startups!). The race to move analytics and automated intelligence INTO the meter is on. What were once measurement devices that required separate investments are now being built directly into the meter?
- Near real-time Load disaggregation – Approaches here are maturing by orders of magnitude, allowing utilities and customers to detect micro patterns in demand, and opening up new opportunities for engagement (one company using the load signature to alert customers that they left their garage door open!)
- Emergence of Customer Experience platforms – Finally, a real orchestration engine for coordinating omnichannel customer (and workforce) engagement – complete with preconfigured best-of-breed digital customer journeys.
- Customer vs. operational data? – Distinctions are becoming irrelevant here. Lines between customer and operational data are becoming virtually nonexistent and relied upon equally by each side of the business.
- Importance of DER forecasting – Emerging as perhaps the most critical capability in building the next generation distribution utility. A unique capability that a few niche companies have really perfected over the last decade.
- Closing the orchestration gap – Platforms to seamlessly integrate DR/ DER aggregation, grid operations, customer technology, and utility: customer engagement. A new category of investments required to effectively integrate IT and OT domains.
- Decarbonization now center stage – Now just as dominant on the corporate KPI is as cost savings, customer satisfaction, and workforce safety. A new standard that all IT and OT business cases will need to meet.
- Commercializing and scaling the DSPP – Build the distribution utility of the future, then what? Scale it of course. Several large Utilities are looking to create a new growth platform for the business by selling (or licensing) their platform and technologies to other utilities with limited capital but similar ambition
- New applications for blockchain – Any large volume of transactions that require “trust” are candidates for this technology – be it money, assets, workforce, or customer peer-to-peer. Full-fledged use cases are not that far off.
At TMG, we always look forward to January events like these to help our annual scan of best practices and technologies and build upon on our collection of insights and practices that we take into our advisory engagements, best practice exchanges, and annual forums.
Kudo’s to the DTECH2020 staff for creating this venue and pulling together another terrific event.
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Register for the TMG 2020 UTILITY FORUM, BRINGING THE DIGITAL UTILITY TO LIFE, in Scottsdale, Arizona on October 5-5, 2020 HERE.