SAP AG has announced a ‘Utility of Tomorrow’ contest to help utilities better understand what customers want and drive innovation in the market through more interactive and appealing customer experience.
The company sees a particular challenge for utilities in engaging with a younger generation that expect a connected, consumer-centric experience. To that end, the contest aims to put university students from around the world together with leading utilities in order to develop ways to transform the customer experience. Potential areas covered in the competition include green energy, connected appliances, water management, electric vehicles and waste management.
SAP is hoping that participating faculty may include the contest as part of their curriculum. SAP University Alliances programme members Aalborg University, Aarhus University, IT University of Copenhagen, University College London, University of Oxford, University of Mannheim and University of Liechtenstein have joined the programme as founding members.
Utility companies are being invited to sponsor the contest, from which they will gain customer insights, play a role in selecting the winning ideas and may engage directly with the successful contestants. DONG Energy, Israel Electric Corporation and San Diego Gas and Electric have agreed to be the initial sponsors.
Winners will participate in a Silicon Valley workshop to further develop their ideas and finalists will also have the opportunity to present their ideas at a SAP event in Las Vagas in October. There’s more detail at www.utilityoftomorrowcontest.com.
Review: As we move (all too slowly) towards a more sustainable world, the utilities business is being transformed. It can no longer consist of companies simply providing services to clients at a agreed cost. Much of the resources provided by utilities are, or will be, in short supply. Greater interaction with customers is required to limit use and keep costs down. The advent of smart meters and smart grids is a case in point. When fully implemented they will allow customers to closely monitor and manage their energy use, saving energy and money.
The problem is that there is much resistance to smart meter implementation because of the information they collect and pass on. Much of the objections may be overcome if the customer experience is good enough, but we’re not there yet. The SAP competition may well throw up some issues from the first generation that will widely use smart utilities.
But there are also some new benefits from utility developments. For example, the implementation of smart grids is likely to bring with it the availability of more connected devices, one of the topic areas for the competition. A smart meter could become the hub of a Home Energy Management network, where various electrical devices can be monitored and managed remotely. Innovative ideas are needed to develop these sorts of capabilities and make them as attractive as possible.