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The Digital Data Revolution: Changing How Utilities Will Meet the Challenges of 5G and Beyond

John Sciarabba's picture
CEO Alden Systems

John Sciarabba, CEO, founded Alden in 1995. He received a BS in Electrical Engineering from Clarkson University and an MS in Electrical Engineering from the University of Illinois at...

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  • Feb 2, 2021
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With every passing minute, it’s apparent that our world is becoming more data driven. But has the utility industry kept pace with this trend?

Certainly, the technology is available to deliver accurate data in ways that field techs are already harnessing for more efficiency. But what matters even more is that the data is captured in a structured way which makes it efficient to work with and what happens downstream after data is collected.

Complicating matters is the fact that the utility industry, which is under the gun to roll out 5G and deliver on the promise of the IoT to create smart cities, finds itself in a brave new world with a need to find solutions for collecting large volumes of data, as well as for streamlining asset data collected incrementally. Additionally, utilities must coordinate with new and multiple stakeholders in ways they have never done before. Meanwhile all the stakeholders involved are balancing their competing priorities, which sometimes conflict with one another. Sharing data is no longer an option—it’s vital to getting the work done.

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In order to be successful, industry players need to make several key changes. The first step is to commit to the goal of being data driven. Once you have that kind of commitment from executives and leaders, you can begin to identify strategic opportunities and technologies for increased and better data collection.

The next move is to shift from a project to a process mindset by using digital data to design workflows that can be consistently replicated and eventually scaled. This relies on having a centralized repository to take advantage of the kind of rich data that can now be captured. But to really move the digital revolution forward, data must be aggregated to group work efficiently, tasks must be automated, and information must be shared—internally and among stakeholders—in a structured manner that facilitates shared objectives.

In other words, automating business processes utilizing a workflow system allows you to route relevant data to the right people at the right time, often combining multiple datasets to add even more context, and presenting it to different users in the unique ways they need to consume it. With the ability to aggregate information, the engineer and the lineman will only see the data each needs for his workflow. Additionally, the capability to analyze data in intuitive dashboards allows for near real time insight into KPIs that drive productivity.

With better allocation of resources and time, the gains that can be realized begin to move the needle on the challenges of keeping pace with digital demand. It’s a data-driven future that’s within reach if industry stakeholders grasp how data collection and downstream analytics allow us to work smarter together.

 

Stay tuned for an upcoming episode of the Energy Central Power Perspectives Podcast featuring John discussing these topics in more depth. In this episode, John Sciarabba will draw from his experiences during a more than 20-year career in the industry to share more insights into this topic, including common mistakes that your utilities make when it comes to data collection, how to optimize the data you are collecting, and predictions for how technology will meet industry needs in the future.

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