Electric utility companies are projected to install over one billion smart meters by 2024. And that is just the top of the iceberg — driven by smart energy initiatives, utilities are transforming how power is managed. This new approach is creating a flood of new smart hardware, IoT integrations, and data that organizations can leverage to build a smarter grid. But to use this data, utilities need more than smarter hardware—they need smarter software.

IoT implementation drove a 35% reduction in downtime, 25% reduction in asset maintenance costs. (US Department of Energy)

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, 70 percent of the United States’ transmission lines are over 25 years old, and the average power plant is over 30 years old. Maintaining this critical infrastructure is a huge task, and one that’s growing more expensive with age. As utilities begin considering replacements, there’s an opportunity to tap into the grid of tomorrow.

Preparing for the future of utilities

Infrastructure replacement presents a huge challenge, but also an opportunity to innovate. Smart city initiatives, the Internet of Things (IoT), and the push for automation are driving demand for smarter grids. These have helped propel smart hardware to the center of infrastructure replacement programs.

The biggest infrastructure replacement effort today is the deployment of smart meters, or advanced metering infrastructure (AMI). AMI deployment can help utilities understand where and how power is being used, providing clarity on where to build, what to repair, and how to prioritize that work.

Cumulative global expenditure on advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) will almost double over the same period, rising from $73 billion in 2017 to $145.8 billion in 2024. (Wood Mackenzie)

Leveraging this opportunity can be a game-changer for utilities. AMI deployment is projected to double by 2024, but data processing capabilities are lagging behind. Many utilities are held back by legacy ERP systems that are ill-equipped to handle the volume of data from smart meters.

Building a 21st Century Grid

Without the digital infrastructure to support smart physical infrastructure, utility companies are throwing away the benefits of smart equipment, leaving data, insights, and efficiency gains on the table. Getting the most out of connected hardware is the cornerstone of smarter field service and central to delivering the promise of a smart grid.

With smarter digital infrastructure, utility leaders can leverage data streams to optimize their operations. By understanding how and where power is being used, resources can be allocated to where they matter most. Real-time data can help coordinators make smarter decisions when reacting to outages. Machine learning can help teams understand why failures happened, and better predict where the next failure is likely to occur. Crews can be dispatched ahead of potential outages, and executives can prioritize line upgrades based on real-time data and historical trends.

Investing in smarter scheduling technology will improve dispatch efficiency by 60% and “intelligent, in-day scheduling” will increase productivity by 30% (Aberdeen)

Empowered with smarter data, automated scheduling, and real-time responses, leaders across the grid are rewriting what’s possible in field service. Today’s infrastructure replacement presents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to adopt truly transformative technology, but without equally smart digital technology, the grid of tomorrow will never be realized. Smart hardware is nothing without smart software.

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