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  Technological innovations in energy and utility markets

Energy and utility markets to embrace tech innovations

The global energy and utility markets - which were traditionally seen to be conservative and slow moving - look set to embrace technological innovations over the coming year, if a new Gartner report is to be believed.

Gartner noted that the energy and utility markets are set for numerous challenges over the coming years, with the likes of environmental sensitivity, ever-changing policies and heightened consumer expectations providing potential stumbling blocks.

To combat this, however, the sectors appear to be turning to solutions they have historically avoided - the tech industry. Not only that, it could embrace some of the newest, most cutting-edge solutions that even those in other industries which typically work more closely with technology have so far avoided.

In light of all this, Gartner found ten different new tech options that could help the industry, or which have already started seeing interest. These were, in no particular order; social media and web 2.0; big data; mobile and location-aware technology; cloud computing and SaaS; sensor technology; in-memory computing; IT and OT convergence; advanced metering infrastructure; communication technology; and predictive analytics.

Below are four of the ten and the ways in which they could provide a boost to the energy and utilities markets.

Mobile and location-aware technology
Mobile tech has been used to great effect in the retail industry, with ads being tailored to whoever happens to be close by when they log on. For the utilities market, however, this technology can be used to lower costs whilst also improving overall accuracy and effectiveness. It allows sharing of information at high speeds whilst also automating geographical information, thus removing the chance of any mistakes.

Cloud computing and SaaS
The energy industry is thought to be among those which has had a slow uptake where cloud computing is concerned. Sharing the traditional fears of security and potential downtime, many businesses have so far avoided using the tech, despite countless reports claiming that such concerns are unfounded.

This resistance could soon be a thing of the past, however, with smaller firms and co-operatives that don't have extensive infrastructure or budget seeing that cloud options could speed up their processes whilst having just a minimal impact on production systems.

Sensor technology
Utility companies can utilise sensors in their entire supply, transmission and distribution domains. Furthermore, as previous concerns such as shielding, temperature protection, remote access and ruggedness are alleviated with new developments, this could become an even more central aspect of operations.

Communication technology
Improved communication technology should give the utilities industry significantly better asset management and much more efficient working practices. It could mean, however, using familiar systems with different approaches.

Gartner noted: "The smart grid drive toward better observability of the distribution network requires machine-to-machine (M2M) monitoring systems that are similar in function to low bandwidth SCADA, but use different communication technologies and approaches (such as personal-area networks [PANs], HANs, FANs, substation, control center and enterprise LANs, and shared wide area networks)."

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