Utilities Still Need Help With Their AMI

www.utilityproducts.com
 
Despite the fact that AMI actually originated at utilities—or at least the predecessor AMR did—some utilities still are struggling with all the data they are now generating.  That seems to be particularly true of smaller co-operative or publicly owned utilities, which are now required to gather more information than they think they will ever need.
The problem is that the federal government threw a lot of money at encouraging utilities to install the new two-way metering systems and it was the topic du jour for months on end.  Many utilities applied for and received grants, installed the systems and now are just “storing” multiple meter reads per day.  This is a fine example of how well our regulatory government works; until you realize that after installation, no one knew what to do with all the extra information, and now they aren’t actually doing anythingwith it.  Also, other utilities installed the systems without grants and now are paying for them with little to show in return for their investment.
All of that data will pile up and eventually have to be discarded in time if it can not be incorporated, through analytics and business intelligence, throughout the enterprise.  This requires that all levels of the utility be involved; from senior management down to the customer service, engineering, operations and other departments.  It can serve to orient the utility into dealing with the brave new world of “smart grid”.  Otherwise, it’s just a waste of money and time.
–Warren B. Causey

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Utilities Should Plan Carefully For Analytics

www.dezearch.com
 
The advent of AMI obviously has pushed utilities into the world of “big data”.  There are a host of companies out there these days offering to provide business intelligence and advanced analytics to deal with all this data, as well as other issues utilities face.  Not all such offers or companies are equal, however.

 

Utilities are relatively unique organizations, quasi-government (through regulation) and quasi-free enterprise—IOUs are traded on the major stock exchanges and even municipal and co-operatives usually must show a profit.
These characteristics make data analysis and business intelligence for utilities a fairly unique undertaking.  Utilities have unique reporting frameworks, role-based KPIs, unique KPI definitions and require specific reporting trees.  Utilities need to be careful in selecting a BI/AA solution that those offering it have experience and knowledge in these unique areas.  This is an area where mistakes can be confusing and costly.
–Warren B. Causey

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The World Is Complex; Advanced Analytics Can Simplify

www.globalgiants.com
Remember high school or college research projects?  Remember trying to find, and then pouring over, thick tomes that might or might not have the specific information you were looking for?  Remember the frustration of realizing that you probably didn’t have all the necessary information when you sat down to write your paper?

 

Those frustrations haven’t gone away, but they have been eased a bit with the convenience of the Internet, and advanced analytics hold even more promise.  Combine the tools and you have a powerful method of discerning truth in what seems an extremely complex world.  Currently, advanced analytics are used primarily by large private companies and governmental organizations to increase profitability and transparency; however, they also have possibilities for individuals needing to research or track virtually anything.  And as prices for business intelligence dashboards come down, it isn’t hard to imagine advanced analytics becoming more mainstream among the general public.
This is not to say that you’ll be able to use advanced analytics to research virtually anything from home or your dorm room in the near future.  However, it isn’t hard to imagine such a scenario over the next 20 years or so.  Of course then, with “one version of the truth” all those trying to convince you of “their way” may have more difficulties, which is not necessarily a bad thing.  Manufacturers, retail companies and high-tech firms and of course government and quasi-government agencies will be first, but they will be blazing trails more of us can follow.
–Warren B. Causey 

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A Lantern And A Compass Won’t Do

www.washingtonpost.com
There was an interesting blog on Forbes’ website recently entitled: Healthcare of the Employee vsHealth of the Business: What if No One Wins?  It was a review of Obamacare’s effect on employers and employees.  The blog concluded with this sentence: “But like I said: we’re at the end of this blog and we have no answer. Instead, just a torn piece of a map of what healthcare and healthcare receivables are going to look like in the next few years to come. Bring a compass and a lantern.”

 

The gist of the article was that Obamacare’s morass of complexities include requiring employers with more than 50 full-time employees to provide healthcare and the costs of doing so, the blogger notes, is likely to cost employers sharply more, sharply eating into or eliminating profits.  As he notes, private businesses that do not make a profit don’t stay in business very long.  Governments, of course, are another story.
Bringing a “compass and a lantern”, however, is not the solution.  Advanced analytics offer the only hope for private businesses in dealing with this morass.  Can it be dealt with?  Who knows, but advanced analytics will help determine the answers.  Many private businesses likely will be just unable to do so and will close or cut employees to get below the 50 employee threshold. However, private business needs their advanced analytics and business information systems to be working overtime churning out answers to deal with the problem—if it can be dealt with at all.
–Warren B. Causey


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Military Micro-Grids Require Advanced Analytics

www.off-grid.net
One of the goals of many individuals and organizations pushing hard for environmentalism is the idea of micro-grids.  Essentially, micro-grids would be small electric systems with their own generation that would serve a small geographic area.  They would be separate from the nationwide interconnected grid that has made modern civilization possible.
Micro-grids offer some interesting technological challenges, especially if, as the environmentalists would prefer, they rely upon “renewable” forms of generation, primarily wind and solar, although geothermal, hydro and other alternatives are possible.  The U.S. military knows a great deal about micro-grids, they operate them all the time when armies are in the field.  However, those grids are built around portable diesel generators, which is something the environmentalists don’t like.
There currently is a report out by Red Mountain Insights called Military Micro-grids Market Potential that says: The DoD (Department of Defense) moves about 50 million gallons of fuel monthly in Afghanistan, much of which is for power generation. The fuel powers more than 15,000 generators in Afghanistan alone. What if, through use of Micro-grid technologies, the military could cut that fuel transportation and use in half?”
By “micro-grid technologies” the report goes on to describe that “independent micro-grids that integrate distributed renewable generation, electric vehicles, and demand response at its bases.”  Having been in combat with heavy armored units of the U.S. military myself, I can tell you that electric vehicles are a long way from being capable of meeting those demands.  Renewable technologies for electric generation also aren’t very portable.  However, as the report points out, there could be options for micro-grids at fixed, peace-time military bases. 
It’s an interesting concept, but one that will require a lot of advanced analytics.  An army that can’t move is pretty much a sitting duck.  Windmills and solar panels aren’t my idea of something to deal with when the command is, as I have heard it given deep behind enemy lines: “Mount up, we’re moving out in five minutes!”  In that case, it was a full battalion of heavy M-1 Abrams tanks and all its very-portable support functions.  Electric vehicles, windmills and solar panels weren’t on the TOE (table of organization and equipment), nor could they be.
–Warren B. Causey

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Analytics Desperately Needed In The Green/Fossil Energy Dispute

media.nowpublic.net
Ken Silverstein, a columnist with Energy Central, has an excellent piece this week describing the growing acrimony between environmentalists and supporters of fossil fuels.  It’s entitled: All-of-the-above Energy Strategy Giving Way to All-Out Political War and is available here.
Ken describes how fossil fuel companies are trying to fight back against a raft of environmental regulations—primarily from the Environmental Protection Agency and state Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS).  One side argues that renewable portfolio standards are driving up the cost of electricity for average consumers.  The environmentalists deny this and argue all the costs of fossil fuels aren’t included in the calculations.  Ken states that the arguments are evolving into a political war.
I have observed that both sides “cherry pick” their statistics and economic numbers to benefit their own arguments.  It’s pretty hard for the average consumer to understand the truth in the midst of all these arguments since both sides of this political war are guilty of misusing information.  The only true way to sort it all out is available—advanced analytics—but it’s unlikely either side is willing to put all their arguments to a full analytical test.  It’s a shame that politics—on both sides—are all we hear about and not the “real” numbers.  Both sides are equally to blame.  However, the implications of this “political war” are dire indeed to the future of our electricity-fueled economy.  This is a case where real, totally impartial “bean counters” using advanced analytics could do a true national service.
–Warren B. Causey

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Predictive Analytics For Healthcare Can Tread Dangerous Ground

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Those of us old enough to remember when smoking was considered “normal” and some people were just “naturally fat” are sometimes amused at all today’s hype about “healthy lifestyles”.  Where all that hype comes from is predictive analytics in healthcare.  Many other authors have touched on and discussed the idea of using analytics to predict health issues, and believe that, to some extent, the analytics of “wellness” can predict if people are likely to become ill.
What is behind most of the propaganda aimed at lifestyle choices these days is the idea of “Holistic wellness”, or Whole Wellness of the mind, body, & soul.  This involves a number of factors within the host to be working in collaboration together to keep them feeling healthy.  When any one of those areas gets out of conformity and begins functioning improperly, then disease is claimed to be the result.
This tying of health to lifestyle choices is the basis of much of the constant bombardment of “health information” we receive, and can even lead to such proposals as Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s edict against large-volume soft drinks.  There is no question about what a healthy lifestyle offers in terms of benefits to an individual, few would dispute that.  However, when such analytics are used to justify gross interference with individual choices, another American right—our individual freedom—is the casualty.  Yes, it is possible to turn out perfect clones of people.  There have been a lot of science fiction books and movies written about those efforts, most of them very scary.  But advanced analytics in healthcare has many positive aspects too.  We must, however guard against their misuse by those who would “design” us to meet their conceptions of society.
If you disagree, let me know by commenting.
–Warren B. Causey

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