DALLAS: Global energy firm EDF is making major changes to both its IT systems and its company culture as it prepares for the 'data deluge' brought about by the widespread adoption of the Internet of Things.
As the firm looks to roll out 35 million energy-tracking 'Linky' smart meters in France alone, it faces a mammoth task to handle, and then make use of, the stream of data that will bombard its IT systems. Energy companies worldwide are facing the same issues, as British Gas rolls out its own smart meter and mobile app programme.
Speaking at the Teradata Partners conference in Texas, EDF project manager Marie-Luce Picard detailed the wholesale changes her firm needs to make to take full advantage of the information coming its way: "We used to get information from our customers every six months. Now, we will have data every ten minutes," she said.
"Big data is something we need to take into account. Where it's difficult is that we need to change our way of thinking in our companies. The appreciation of data is not present; we have to become aware that data is valuable and we have to think of what we can do with the data," she explained.
With 35 million smart meters rolled out, EDF expects to receive 1.8 trillion individual data records annually, creating 120 terabytes of raw data every year.
EDF operates in countries all over the world with research centres in China, the UK and the US among others, many of which are working on making the most of the Internet of Things concept, which would see machines communicating with each other through the use of tiny sensors.
"The fridge might talk to the washing machine and they will together decide which will consume energy at that moment," said Picard. "For companies such as EDF it will involve more IT and data management."
The concept of the Internet of Things goes hand-in-hand with big data, with the energy industry joining manufacturing companies and logistics firms in making use of data to increase efficiency. This is particularly pertinent for the energy sector, as environmental issues coupled with rising fuel bills and scarcity affect every part of the developed world.
The UK's own rollout of smart energy meters has been delayed after ministers decided the UK's technical infrastructure was not robust enough to handle the surge in data output.
The image of completely connected so-called 'smart cities' has been one talked about for many years, but as yet has not made an impact on everyday life. However, the gradual adoption of the technologies required could eventually make it a reality.
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