There’s no question that the Internet of Things (IoT) will transform the energy and utilities industry —that’s already happening. IoT is playing a central role in the modernization of the energy sector—perhaps more than in any other industry.

Companies are already using IoT sensors and integrated energy platforms to improve their resource management, strengthen security, address compliance and, most importantly, to deliver great customer experiences.

Customers Are Taking the Power Back

Today’s customers aren’t used to waiting. They can shop online and have their products delivered the same day. Consumers are growing accustomed to fast, engaging and digitally rich experiences from all of the brands they interact with. So it’s no surprise that they’re starting to expect the same from their energy and utilities providers.

It’s not just about speed and convenience—customer empowerment matters too. Customers don’t just want to keep the lights on and take hot showers. They want a current view of their energy and water consumption, to control usage and spending, and do their part to reduce environmental impact. Like their usage and spending, customers are controlling the conversation. Consumers have a voice unlike before, which means comparing utilities across digital channels, sharing experiences on social media, and switching providers with ease online.

These changing demands mean it’s more crucial than ever for energy and utilities companies to adopt customer-centric strategies. And IoT technology is a critical enabler for delivering enhanced customer experiences.

Enhancing the Customer Experience

Enterprises have a great opportunity to respond to customer demands by leveraging IoT sensors. These can be used to gather a wealth of data about supply and demand, grid capacity and customer usage habits. This information can be used to dramatically enhance the customer experience.

Smart meters enable energy providers to identify many service problems online. This means that service disruptions can often be resolved without the customer picking up the phone, or having to book a service technician. Smart meters also provide access to near-real-time consumption data. Usage-based rates provide a great incentive for customers to reduce their own consumption and save money. Offering these programs can help you to attract and retain value-conscious customers and gain the edge in this competitive industry.

These benefits don’t just apply to energy. Water companies are quickly making progress. Smart water meters can help you to generate accurate bills, while also empowering customers to monitor and reduce their own daily water consumption levels. By digitally detecting pipeline problems and leakages, irrigation problems can be quickly identified and fixed. This has obvious benefits for the customer, and the environment and community, as it helps reduce water wastage.

Getting the most from IoT solutions

To make a real success of IoT, there are two crucial factors to consider.

Network connectivity

You’ll need reliable and far-reaching network connectivity. That means working with partners that have the experience and connections you can depend on, while also leveraging the latest technology. If your company is relying on thousands of IoT sensors—and especially if those sensors are buried in the ground or hard to access—battery life is an important consideration. The latest low-power wide area network (LP-WAN) options, like LTE Cat-M1, enable you to connect thousands of disparate sensors while helping sustain battery life—and do so cost-effectively.

Security

Robust security controls need to be in place to protect your IoT systems. Energy and utilities services are maintaining critical infrastructure. Citizens rely on power and water in their everyday lives, and a severe cyberattack or outage could have serious consequences. There’s also the vast amount of customer data your IoT systems will gather—customers trust you to keep this information safe, and a data breach could damage your reputation. But security shouldn’t be perceived as a barrier to adoption. With the help of a trusted partner, and the latest security controls in place, you can design and build a resilient IoT system.

The energies and utilities industry is entering a very exciting phase. IoT technology is set to revolutionize the entire sector—leading to increased efficiency, enhanced customer experiences and greater sustainability. To find out more, and network with those at the forefront of this technology, come and see us in Texas, Oct. 16–17, at Itron Utility Week.

Justin Blair on Linkedin
Justin Blair
Executive Director, Business Products - Verizon
Justin Blair is an executive director on the business products team at Verizon, in the Global Products and Solutions organization. Specifically, he leads product management for the Internet of Things (IoT) and Wireless Business products. Justin is also responsible for Verizon’s IoT business development efforts, including relationships with relevant OEMs and carriers globally.