Capgemini recently showcased some of its Digital Utilities Transformation (DUT) offerings to leaders across the Utilities industry at EON Reality’s European HQ in Manchester. The technology-enabled surroundings of the Manchester lab presented a fantastic environment for the UK industry to think about the opportunities disruptive technologies offer to address emerging challenges.

For the Business Analytics team it was an opportunity to showcase our end-to-end asset management solutions – and, looking to the future, discuss with the industry representatives our thought leadership in the area. With the impending influx of connected data, analytics and the next generation of digital technologies has the power to accelerate Utilities towards optimising their performance and efficiency.

Asset intensive organisations are facing considerable challenges. Typically this includes an ageing infrastructure, constrained budgets, reduced expertise as a result of an ageing workforce and increasing stakeholder pressure, to name but a few. It is estimated that asset intensive organisations in the UK will invest £300bn in coming years to maintain and improve assets – but to maximise the value from their investment, the better use of asset information and analytics to improve asset management decisions will be critical.

Underpinning the opportunity is data – and there will be plenty of it. The technology buzz around the Internet of Things, which is about connecting objects that are becoming ever more embedded with sensors, promises much for Utilities. Gartner believe 2014 is ‘The year of the sensor’ and recognise Utilities are leading the way in creating value from the emerging connected data, with many introducing smart meter and grid technology. When it comes to managing assets, new sensor data, along with a growing number of technologies that are providing asset related data sources, has huge potential – but the value needs to be unlocked. The question is: are Utilities ready to realise this potential?

87% of industry leaders at the DUT event cited poor data quality as one of the main drivers preventing them from making better asset management decisions. Part of the problem is data integrity which can be lost as data passes through the business or supply chain. The UK Government recognised the importance of this, when in 2011 it embarked on a four year strategy that will make new digital construction standards mandatory from 2016. It will unlock more efficient methods of designing, creating and maintaining assets. This should be seen as the benchmark for all Utilities to ensure they manage, structure and make available the right data.

Technologies will improve visualisation and interaction with asset information. At the showcase, EON Reality demonstrated some innovative digital solutions. The EON Reality Idesk provides an augmented reality 3D view of an asset, which can pull on data from a standard CAD design or 3D model. Emerging technologies like this will allow engineers in the future to visualise, interact and overlay data sources associated with an asset and its components to support technical asset maintenance activities.

Analytics will transform approaches to asset management decision making by turning the new world of connected data into actionable insights. Already analytics is improving the way assets are managed, moving from reactive treatment to understanding the root cause of issues and predicting failures which can be used to more accurately inform decisions on when, how and where to maintain and renew assets. For example, historical condition and other parameters associated with an asset are used to predict areas vulnerable to failure. As the volume, speed and number of connected data sources increase, the richer and more accurate the insight becomes which will deeply change the economics around the asset life cycle and optimise economic return on assets.

In 2012 a Capgemini joint research program with the MIT Center for Digital Business, revealed that only 46% of Utilities surveye d globally reported using analytics to make better operational decisions. This was reiterated at the DUT event where 85% of the industry representatives thought that their Utility’s analytical capabilities were preventing them from improving their asset management decision making. Beside the technologies, Utilities need to be investing in analytics and digital skills to ensure they have the capabilities to leverage the amount of data that will come into the value chain.

Analytics is already revolutionising the way Utilities manage their assets. The data explosion trend and increasing connection of data will open up a myriad of new analytics opportunities to optimise value throughout the asset lifecycle. The DUT event showcased a selection of solutions that are disrupting the way assets are managed – but highlighted limited analytical capabilities and poor data quality as preventing the majority of the industry from making the next steps. Utilities are data rich organisations but there are undoubted challenges in effectively managing the masses of data and using analytics to leverage insight to improve decision-making. To overcome this, companies will need to invest in analytics and digital skills to ensure they exploit the data which will see Utilities significantly improve performance and drive efficiency.