Data-driven iPaaS

Blog posts

"Adaptation to disruption needs to happen at a faster pace, says Thorsten Heller, CEO of Greenbird."

Whether you call it the ‘Internet of Energy’ (IoE), the ‘energy cloud,’ a moniker assigned by Navigant Research, or ‘Energy 4.0,’ in reference to the fourth industrial revolution – what is clear is that the line between the digital and physical world is blurring.

The integration of emerging technologies identifies the Energy 4.0 utility: Cloud, Internet of Things (IoT), big data information management, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning.

The existing system of energy is in disruption. A force that requires utilities to adapt to new requirements and opportunities rapidly. Utilities have to become agile and willing to innovate to compete. To use the words of Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum: “It’s not the big that eat the small. It’s the fast that eat the slow.”

Utility innovation at start-up speed

Whenever I mention the necessity for utilities to adopt faster innovation cycles, most industry experts smile pitifully, and politely shrug their shoulders or shake their heads. Utilities don’t know how to move quickly. In a tariff-driven environment, why should they?

Their capital projects are large and long-running with a waterfall project management approach. They prefer a ‘one-stop’ shopping purchasing strategy and thus engage with the big players who promise to do it all – eventually.

But can innovation for Energy 4.0 come from the big fish?

The established players are now challenged by agile and fast-moving growth companies which – without the burden of legacy – can quickly leverage the power of modern technologies (cloud, IoT, big data, AI) to foster innovation.

These data-driven fast fish are driven by data analytics.

They embrace a lean start-up mindset and are accustomed to delivering value and iterative, innovative services – within a few days or few weeks. Not months or years. These companies attract techsavvy and highly skilled engineering personnel – especially in the practical application of cloud-native technologies, real-time analytics and machine learning.

Their focus is trained on solving specific problems with disruptive solutions, and their goal is to make a difference and an impact every day.

The fast fish are driving utility innovation and accelerating the digital transformation to Energy 4.0.

The platform as ‘operating system’ for utility innovation

Utilities have to change both their mindset and operating model to foster innovation. “Data is the new electricity” means utilities must become technology companies. They must transform from commoditised grid operators to platform operators delivering data-driven, smart energy services.

Utilities have to establish a modern and flexible IT platform to manage an ecosystem that accommodates and leverages the growing number of Energy 4.0 solution providers.

A modern IT platform must:

  • Be designed with openness in mind and built on open technologies and standards to minimise dependencies, technical debt or vendor lock-in – which disable innovation
  • Utilise elastic infrastructure to dynamically scale up and down and manage the vast amount of available data
  • Simplify system integration and data exchange between IT and OT systems to enable a 100% automated and digitised value chain
  • Minimise legacy complexity or utility application limitations to shorten innovation cycles
  • Offer uniform and managed access via APIs to energy data as needed and foster the ecosystem of fast fish growth companies
  • Provide support for DevOps and DataOps to accelerate delivery of innovative services.

About the author

Thorsten Heller is CEO and co-founder of Greenbird Integration Technology.

He has extensive international experience in advanced cloud-based software solutions for utilities, with a focus on IoT, big data, real-time analytics and machine learning to empower the smart grid and smart utility of the future.

This article was originally published in Smart Energy International 5-2018. You have access to our digital magazine here.