Talking Outage Management—Developing Smarter Communication Between Customers And Utilities

Talking Outage Management—Developing Smarter Communication Between Customers And Utilities

By Jamal Syed, HEXstream president and CEO 

Like many other facets within utilities, the tactics and tools used for customer communication are evolving. This is a good thing, for both energy providers and the customers they serve. But new software and strategies require a deeper trust in the data that empowers them, and greater availability of that trustworthy data.

That’s where utilities have to work smartly.

We all know that siloed data is a problem among utilities—different departments sometimes fail to properly share their information among themselves, as these processes are often manual, time-consuming and prone to human error. These struggles deflate the value of just-in-time data.

This siloed-data issue is growing in the era of digitalization, which is supercharging the amount of data we’re managing. Required in these situations is a proper data backbone, which enables efficient, ordered aggregation and access of disparate streams of data. And, particularly with utilities, siloed data inhibits the real-time insights demanded by executives, regulators and customers. Connecting these silos—enabling full communication between them—is the goal.

Compounding this problem of merging data sets is that utilities also deal with information from outside their enterprises; off-grid data comes from traffic reports and weather stations, social media platforms and emergency networks like FEMA. This third-party data must be combined with internal sets in order to develop real-time analysis and empower predictive and prescriptive approaches.  

This data is available, of course, but oftentimes in such massive volumes—and delivered at such high velocity—that it can overwhelm storage and analysis platform capabilities. It’s hard to analyze water during a hurricane, right? 

This is where new technologies are critical for harnessing the full value of outage-management data. Artificial intelligence, for one, can provide the necessary churning power to process big data and generate real-time insights. These insights can be meshed with domain data to develop effective mitigation plans for future crises. 

Advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) is another tool increasingly used in this space. AMI can be used to collect granular customer data and enable two-way communication between utilities and citizens, which benefits both camps. Smart utilities merge AMI data with information from social media, they partner that information with updates from customer portals to quicken restoration times. Smart meters alert utilities that customers are back in power, and providers can then complete the cycle by updating customers about restoration via social media or other channels chosen by those end users.

In short, customers are delivered accurate outage information in real time, which keeps them current on restoration, which keeps them happy. And happy customers keep utilities in business. 


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