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3 Data Applications for Improved Benchmarking in the Utilities Sector

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Jenna Tsui's picture
Energy and Sustainability Journalist The Byte Beat

Hi, my name is Jenna Tsui and I'm an energy, sustainability, and technology journalist located in Texas. I co-own a technology blog called The Byte Beat and I primarily write about technology...

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  • Jun 25, 2020

Benchmarking is an essential practice in any industry, but especially in the utilities sector. Utilities are often a business's largest non-fixed expense, so benchmarking helps you remain transparent and offer the information they need. It also enables you to see if you need to adjust anything to improve your operations.

Today's technology makes benchmarking a more straightforward and accurate process for all parties involved. Using modern data collection and analysis tools, you can improve your benchmarking at nearly every level. Without a data-centric process, you may not be getting the most precise or helpful results.

Benchmarking and data are inseparable. So to make the most of your benchmarking, you need to ensure that you're getting all you can from your data. Here are three data applications that will help you improve this process.

Internet of Things Sensors

When it comes to gathering data, the internet of things (IoT) is one of the most useful tools at your disposal. IoT sensors take advantage of the accessibility of the internet to provide relevant information to virtually any device. Since they're typically small, you can apply them almost anywhere.

Your benchmarking will be more useful and accurate the more data sources you can access. When you take advantage of the IoT, your only limit for data sources is your budget. These sensors eliminate the need to go to the source and take readings in person.

You can implement IoT technology at almost every level of your process. From your performance to users' consumption rates, there's little you can't measure. The unmatched scalability and accessibility of the IoT provide you with a more comprehensive data set than you could hope to gain otherwise.

AI-Based Collection and Analysis

​​​​​​​Gathering and sifting through data can be a painstaking process if you're doing it manually. Artificial intelligence applications can automate both sides of this equation, streamlining it and offering more valuable insights. Through tools like predictive analytics, AI programs don't just give you results, but suggestions about what to do with them.

AI applications like machine vision can help monitor things like downed powerlines and product quality. Machine vision can collect the necessary visual data for data scientists or additional AI to process. Modern features like off-axis lighting can virtually eliminate problems like glare, too, making them a reliable investment.

By adopting AI in the data collection and analysis process, you can automate much of your benchmarking. This automation not only saves time and money but can provide insights you may not see without it. AI tends to make connections between data points better than humans, so it's ideal for data-centric benchmarking.

Online Portfolio Manager Services

In today's data-governed world, you have no shortage of options for managing what you collect either. Any benchmarking endeavor is only as effective as the tools you use to record and report it. Online portfolio management services give you a user-friendly method to enter, organize and access your data.

You could build your own online portfolio manager or turn to one of the various third parties that offer these services. The Environmental Protection Agency even provides one of these platforms through the Energy Star Portfolio Manager. More than half of all Fortune 500 companies benchmark through this service, so you can trust its efficacy.

If you or your clients need to comply with any environmental standards, portfolio managers are particularly helpful. For example, the Energy Star Portfolio Manager includes tools to see where you fall in regards to Energy Star requirements. Without tools like this, it would take much longer to benchmark against industry standards or certifications.

Data Leads to Easier and More Relevant Benchmarking

Much of the world today is digitized, so nearly everything creates measurable data. With a process as critical to your success as benchmarking, why wouldn't you take advantage of the vast amount of data available? Data-centric benchmarking provides relevant, actionable results while streamlining the process at the same time.

Without thorough data collection and analysis, your benchmarking may not be as accurate as you'd expect. Through tools like the IoT, machine vision and online portfolio managers, though, you can improve your benchmarking all around. Take your benchmarking into the 21st Century by applying data anayltics. 


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