One of the real challenges for smart grid operators is going to be in leveraging the massive amounts of data that smart grids will generate. Arguably, most of the challenges round smart grid developments are more-or-less straightforward. The network engineering, ICT information and communication elements and the necessary process change can be seen as extensions of existing technology and expertise. But the data smart grids will generate will take utilities into unexplored territory.
I had a chance to talk to Teradata last week, a company that believes it is well placed to help with the challenge. The data warehousing company has introduced its Utilities Logical Data Model (uLDM) to help address the challenge. It’s the latest in a range of industry logical data models with 250 implementations across industries and geographies. The uLDM is a platform, rather than a complete toolkit, but there are specific solutions available from other industry logical data model implementations, some of which may be appropriate for utilities/smart grids.
The company sees four approaches to the utilities market, reflecting the market structure:
Retail: While utilities are not the same as telcos, when smart meters are installed they will generate similar data, so will be very open to CRM solutions. The telco sector is where Teradata has made it’s name in recent years, so has solutions available.
Distribution: The near-real-time active network management required for smart grids is complex. A great deal of network monitoring and control will be required, hence the need for data storage and analytics.
Generation: It’s a difficult time for power companies. On the one hand many of the power generation assets are at, or beyond, their expected life and at the same time new forms of energy generation are coming on stream. So the generation infrastructure is already performing differently to the way it has done in the past. Teradata’s offering is to provide active asset maintenance solutions which can schedule maintenance, take out assets when necessary, predict failure, etc. The company only provides the platform, the front-end analytics are through providers such as SAS, Business Objects, etc.
Data brokerage: There will be a requirement for data collation and sharing between utilities and other organisations. Not very exciting in itself, but there is the potential for more value-add, optional services and new market participation, so Teradata wants to be there.
While Teradata sells direct to utilities, it also works with partners, the main ones being:
1) Business Objects (part of SAP). Early next year SAP Netweaver Business Warehouse will run on the Teradata platform and will be included in the SAP sales list.
2) Itron, which provides meter data management solutions. Working with Teradata’s Active Smart Grid Analytics extends Itron’s solution into the enterprise to provide asset data management, billing, CRM, GIS, etc. It has already been successful in the US.
3) Capgemini - also big in utilities and a Teradata partner around its Smart Analytics for Utilities (in which SAP is also involved). Capgemini has the integration skills using the Teradata platform.
Of course Teradata isn’t the only company looking at this market, the main competition comes from IBM and Oracle (via Exadata, which it bought with Sun). But it’s interesting to see the company’s approach to the significant smart grid market opportunities ahead.
The smart grid offering was only recently brought to Europe, having been running in the US for a year or more. Teradata says it is in ‘serious and advanced’ talks about smart grid offerings with most of the world top-ten utilities (who are mostly Europe-based).