Skip to Content

Data-driven automation will control next generation critical infrastructure
– ‘Future of Field and Intelligent Operations Blog Series’

Graham Upton
Nov 7, 2023

Welcome to Capgemini’s ‘Future of’ series, in which we explore the challenges facing global utilities businesses today and the opportunities they create. Discover how, with vision and ingenuity, you can accelerate the pace of digital adoption across the value chain, delivering both quick wins and long-term dividends in the future. For your business, your consumers, and the environment

In this latest instalment, Graham Upton, Technology and Innovation Director and Chief Architect Intelligent Industry, delves into how digital technologies are delivering dual benefits for energy and utilities businesses, both immediately and by giving long-term confidence in national infrastructure investment decisions.

In this short series we’ve highlighted how live data and digital technologies are combining to transform the capabilities of the connected field engineer by providing unique visibility into the condition of physical assets.

Acting together, they’re enabling proactive maintenance, extending lifespans and improving the performance of our critical national infrastructure. These developments are predominantly designed to empower informed interventions by people, provided with rich insights, into dashboards or reports that, combined with personal skill and experience, enable sound decision-making.

With the mind-boggling volumes of data that we can now capture from energy and utilities infrastructure and equipment, the need to wait for a human decision is rapidly diminishing.

Across society, digital technologies are routinely performing everyday tasks that, until very recently, were regarded as the domain of humans alone. Autonomous, driverless vehicles are now commonplace on the streets of Shenzhen and San Francisco, making thousands of decisions every second.

There, in a nutshell, is the issue, despite the intelligence and ingenuity of today’s engineers, making thousands of decisions simultaneously is, of course, simply not possible. However, this leads to an opportunity, for global society, and the energy and utilities sector in particular.

Intelligent Control Centres acting as digital brains

The exponential growth in data gathering and analysis is producing an explosion of digitally equipped capability, in everything from the smallest smart meter to the biggest water treatment works or power station.

In the last instalment, we mentioned the role of the digital twin, a mirror image of a complete operational environment, with every component part integrated in a single, virtual ecosystem.

While digital twins were originally designed to support human decision making, in the future, Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), machine learning and automation will combine to enable Intelligent Control Centres (ICCs) to make thousands of informed decisions, across the network, all at once.

ICCs will act as digital brains, continuously scanning the data to identify trends, patterns or anomalies and automatically take appropriate action, such as remotely opening sluice gates, shutting down faulty pumps, or scheduling a site visit by a connected engineer (still a human, for now).

But alongside managing the needs of the live operational environment, ICCs will be analyse those trends, patterns or anomalies and then combine them with historical records and external data sources such as weather forecasts, wind speeds, and tidal patterns.

The result of process automation on a large scale is proactive, preventative measures across the ecosystem, multiplying the impacts and benefits.

For energy and utility businesses, the advantages of digitally enabled and controlled operations are obvious and significant. The return-on-investment case is compelling. The value of existing assets can be rejuvenated with life spans extended, there is operational consistency across the ecosystem, reduced costs and carbon footprint, increased resilience with fewer interruptions to supply, and transparency of performance for customers and regulators alike. Many time-consuming, labour-intensive tasks are eliminated, with opportunities to redeploy teams from hazardous working environments to enhanced customer service roles.

Quick wins and long-term investment confidence

All-in-all, this newly-found data-driven digital capability is producing dual dividends – delivering quick wins right now and buying time to ensure the successful long-term replacement of our aging, legacy infrastructure.

The scale of the investment required by energy and utilities businesses to create the critical national infrastructure of the future, makes it essential that they not only maximise the value of what data science and digital technologies can deliver today, but to also anticipate and build in the next generation of technical developments.

How can Capgemini help?

We support energy and utilities businesses in wrestling these challenges, with our ability to provide end-to-end expertise, from strategy to execution and tackling the complexity in between – proving vital to help futureproof (so far as is possible in such a fast-moving environment) today’s investment decisions.

Our technology agnostic approach means we can access the world’s leading digital innovators, to unpack and explore what the next stages of the digital revolution will look like, and to plan for those possibilities in the next generation of infrastructure.

We also have the skills and experience to understand and manage the organisational, cultural, and behavioural changes required to succeed, as organisations throughout the global economy come to terms with the digital revolution.

In France, we worked with one of the world’s most innovative water businesses Saur to design and deploy a digital factory dedicated to the industrialisation of breakthrough data and digital technologies, to improve commercial performance and achieve operational excellence.

We have been with the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) project for over a decade, helping realise its vision from construction to engineering to project management. Alongside those focuses, we developed a prototype of an interactive, digital twin of the project – down to the last technical detail – which all members of the interconnected global team can access with a click of a button.

If you’d like to talk to Capgemini about how we can support you with your digital transformation, contact Graham Upton and connect on Linkedin.

Explore the rest of our ‘Future of’ Field and Intelligent Operations series below:

Graham Upton

Head of Technology & Innovation & Chief Architect Intelligent Industry
Graham is the Capgemini Engineering Intelligent Industry Lead Architect and is an influential senior leader with proven capability in identifying, developing and implementing state of the art and future technology solutions at a strategic level within complex, multinational organisations. Graham leverages a 30+ year career in industry and consulting having an extensive knowledge in design engineering, manufacturing operations and industry leading digital advances.