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Transforming Your Business with the Internet of Things

During one of the very first sessions at this year’s CS Week conference in Fort Worth, Texas, Gartner’s Zarko Sumic discussed the impact of the Internet of Things (IoT) on utilities. According to Gartner, by 2020 up to 21 billion “things” will be connected - and about a quarter of those things will be relevant to the utility space. That means the IoT is hitting mainstream adoption and presenting benefits for utilities, including better asset and employee performance, but perhaps more important is the ability to improve the customer experience. Of the billions of things that are coming online, most of them will be in the home - in fact, Gartner predicts that up to 400 individual things could be connected in the home by 2020. With that depth of connectivity, utilities have an opportunity to gain new information and new insight into their customers, which will improve their ability to serve them.

And it’s not just about learning how people use energy anymore, it’s learning how they live their lives. That has become more important than ever as millennials and all “born-digital” generations become the majority of the utility customer base. Accenture says that millennials assume their utility already has a 360 degree view of them. Tapping into the capabilities of the IoT can help complete that view and truly individualize service.

Utilities have historically done a great job at making electricity so simple for consumers, they rarely have to think or worry about it. The IoT will allow utilities to not only continue that, but to extend that peace of mind into other areas of customers’ lives (like HVAC, EVs, etc). So where are we today? According to Sumic, there are three main phases of IoT adoption:

  1. Fixed - Things take action on behalf of the parameters set by humans. Sumic referred to this at the “If this, then that,” stage, where devices are simply taking orders versus making a decision.

  2. Adaptable - As an intermediate phase, devices do choose among multiple options, but the desired outcomes are designated by humans. The devices are able to optimize for the best possible outcome.

  3. Autonomous - This is the most advanced phase where devices decide and take actions completely independent of humans - think self-driving cars.

Currently, the industry is in the fixed stage. Utilities are deploying devices like smart thermostats and smart meters, but most of those devices aren’t optimizing multiple options. We are getting there though. Some utilities are heading in the adaptable direction by piloting programs like Continuous Demand Management (CDM). CDM simultaneously employs connected home devices (like smart thermostats), energy analytics (like consumer and operational data), and energy market prices to automate residential load management on a daily basis. Smart devices can be tasked to optimize based on outcomes like achieving the lowest energy cost, easing grid congestion, maximizing comfort, and more. This type of automation is especially helpful for customers who are on a time varying rate and don’t want to worry about remembering the price schedule for on-peak and off-peak times.

Despite the availability of such technologies today, we all know full market transformation won’t be easy. Here are a few questions Sumic suggested utilities ask themselves as IoT-oriented projects are introduced into utility business operations:

  • Does it make business sense? What is the investment? Can you recover it with a rate case?

  • What kind of complexity should you anticipate? Is it easy to implement or will it change the underlying infrastructure? 

  • What value does it create? For every use case, look at how much it improves assets, as well as how much it improves the people-related side of business, i.e. will it improve your customer service or employee engagement?

At Tendril, we’re excited to see the benefits the IoT will bring to the energy industry and are continually developing our platform to support the new services and business processes utilities will implement. To learn more about our CDM solution, Orchestrated Energy, which our partners are currently piloting, click here.




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  • DSM
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  • Demand Response
  • Disruption
  • Energy Efficiency
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