Oracle Says Utilities Botch Smart Meter Data Analysis - InformationWeek

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Oracle Says Utilities Botch Smart Meter Data Analysis

Utilities collect a lot of big data, but most don't use that data to spot theft, plan maintenance or improve service, Oracle study finds.

Utility companies should be exemplars of big data analysis, but thus far they're not living up to their potential. So finds a just-released study by Oracle that reveals that utility companies are gathering big data, but have yet to do deep analysis.

Oracle's second-annual study, "Utilities and Big Data: Accelerating the Drive to Value," finds that only 17% of utilities say they are "fully prepared" for the onslaught of high-volume smart-meter data, and that fewer than half use that information to provide alerts or drive customer service improvements. The survey, which is based on interviews with 151 senior-level executives at North American utilities, also finds that 62% of respondents said their firms have big data skills gaps.

"Human resources are clearly a big issue for utilities," said Guerry Waters, a VP of utility industry strategy at Oracle, in an interview with InformationWeek. "When we asked whether they have the data scientists they need to do deep analytics, they clearly said no."

There are many opportunities for utilities to put data to use. One category of keen interest is "revenue protection," which is a euphemism for theft detection. Using combinations of smart-meter data, network sensor data and operational voltage load SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) data, utilities can spot meter tampering and instances when consumption goes to zero when it clearly shouldn't.

[ Want more on what comes after big data collection? Read Future Power Grids Will Need Big Data Analysis. ]

Asset management is another big opportunity whereby utilities can detect patterns that show when items such as transformers are about to fail. This lets utilities avoid service interruptions by replacing equipment before it fails, and they can save money by not blindly replacing items based on the averages of scheduled maintenance cycles. Why replace if there's no sign of failure?

With more solar power sources coming online, Oracle says utilities have an opportunity to use weather data in combination with voltage information to better predict loads and supplemental power requirements.

"You can use Doppler radar to see cloud density and then forecast spatial photovoltaic output," explained Brad Williams, an Oracle VP of industry strategy. "That allows the utility to be more proactive in determining power requirements given expected fluctuations in output."

Getting to all those sophisticated analyses is obviously easier said than done, and one of Oracle's motivations for conducting the study is to promote its own, cloud-based analysis services. Late last year, Oracle acquired DataRaker, a cloud-based platform used by electric, gas and water utilities to analyze smart-meter and sensor data to optimize operations and improve customer service. Utilities may have mastered the challenge of collecting high-scale data, but the DataRaker service handles the bigger problem of developing analyses and filling the skills gap, according to Oracle.

"You don't have to put in servers and infrastructure, and you also get access to the data scientists that utilities typically do not have," said Waters. "It's also a collaborative environment, and our experience has been that customers using the service have formed a community and are sharing good ideas."

Oracle isn't alone in pursuing smart-meter analytics. IBM and SAP also have initiatives underway. IBM is working with Texas utility Oncor as part of its Smarter Utilities program, and SAP is using its Hana database technology at U.K.-based gas and electric utility Centrica.

Items from pills to power plants will soon generate billions of data points. How will this movement change your industry? Also in the new, all-digital Here Comes The Internet Of Things issue of InformationWeek: How IT can capitalize on the NSA's big data prowess. (Free registration required.)

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User Rank: Apprentice
10/15/2013 | 3:40:23 PM
re: Oracle Says Utilities Botch Smart Meter Data Analysis
Great article and comments - The increase in data has potential to revolutionize the way utilities interact with customers. This is certainly true and could add immense value if and only if Privacy, Security, Compliance and highest legal integrity is the core to every product, service and strategy.

Smart and Digital Energy as well as large scale adoption of smart meters is only successful if and only those principles are enforced by all team and executive members as well as through the highest technical standards. But this where one of the ORACLE executive has a history which is damaging the entire industry and has already created lots of damage - just have a look as well as You will understand the context and more over Ralph aka Bill Devereaux is now working for Rodger Smith. This is why it is an executive obligation to employ only staff with the highest integrity. Both are on youtube as well: and

Every customer, client, partner and final customer has the right to know what, who, why, when the data is collected, analyzed and stored as well as who has access to the data, systems and products and whether those persons are trustworthy.

Top executive management has to enforce and take action to re-establish the trust and contribute to the adoption of smart technology.
User Rank: Author
7/26/2013 | 8:00:07 PM
re: Oracle Says Utilities Botch Smart Meter Data Analysis
Is every utility going to need a crew of data geniuses to put this information to good use? Are they meant to raid Wall Street of quant jocks with the riches and glamor of the utility industry? If that kind of talent is required to make smart use of the Internet of things, I'm not sure we'll ever get there.
Nathan Golia
Nathan Golia,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/23/2013 | 6:22:37 PM
re: Oracle Says Utilities Botch Smart Meter Data Analysis
Right. I think it's going to be quite a while before the human side of data analysis catches up with the technology's capabilities in a number of industries.
D. Henschen
D. Henschen,
User Rank: Author
7/23/2013 | 4:14:57 PM
re: Oracle Says Utilities Botch Smart Meter Data Analysis
It's not that they're "botching" smart-meter analysis, as the headline suggest. Most utilities just aren't doing it yet, in part because they don't have data scientists and data analysts to do the analyses. The leaders are saving money and improving service, and 61% of survey respondents said that predictive maintenance would help them do just that.
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