How data sharing in the utilities sector can help protect vulnerable customers (Guest blog from IOTICS)
Utilities are joining forces to support more customers in the communities they serve, especially those that are vulnerable. As the effects of climate change make their way into our lives, severe weather is becoming increasingly common, and can leave many customers without power and water. For some, this is a life or death situation. Companies in the utilities sector are presented with a challenge. One that requires them to cooperate and build effective data sharing partnerships fast.
Some are already planning to do the right thing. They’re looking to share data across boundaries and across sectors with the emergency services as a prime example. Cross party data sharing ensures that should service be lost, those that are vulnerable and reliant upon that service can be identified and action can be taken immediately. The cross-utility collaboration will also help such organisations identify, share and add more customers and relative information to their priority services registers (PSR) through increased data sharing.
There are, however, barriers that stand in the way of making these ecosystems a reality and to make them safe and effective. Utilities are faced with an evolutionary challenge. Many are using legacy systems meaning that a lot of their data is siloed. They need to bring their assets and people data closer together as well as enable data interaction from real time sensor data to understand asset failure and react in real time. This brings data interaction challenges.
Once the internal data problem has been overcome we then need to integrate third party data sources. This could be risky for utilities as the typical API strategy means a requirement to connect third party sources to valuable and sensitive operational data platforms, whilst scaling the data sharing ecosystem will be extremely challenging if utilities continue down the typical API strategy and coding of point to point integrations. It creates more challenges and risks and stifles the evolution of trust that businesses need to build in order to have a healthy data sharing relationship with their partners.
Should the above hurdles be overcome, managing access rights to data and the ability to selectively share information that is interoperable and therefore meaningful to a third party organisation who may not be working from the same common data model as a utility brings another significant challenge . It’s clear that companies are troubled by the lack of common standards around sharing data.
These challenges are by no means easy to overcome, but the technology to do so already exists and its paving a pathway to the utilities sector which is empowered to bring meaningful solutions to customers and their families.
The conversation on how to share data better and protect vulnerable customers is happening now. IOTICS participated in a Utility Week roundtable to discuss these issues. Read all about it here.