As a parent, I’ll bet you have heard, “Are we there, yet?” many times from your children during trips. That same question is one we all should be asking ourselves often during our daily trip over the information highway.

Why? Too often we travel the same route performing our job while the scenery, in the form of new technology and methods, change all along the road. Because we have travelled the road doing our “normal and requisite” functions so often, we either don’t have time to look (at the new scenery) or are too focused on getting to our destination (finishing the task).

To use a much used saying, “it is time we stop and smell the roses.” Technology is changing at a phenomenal rate and at a frequency that is changing our business model – often without us noticing. Sometimes this change is subtle like the roadside scenery.

Take communications as an example. As a culture, we have changed from hard-wired land-lines and single point connections to mobile “I’ve brought my own device.” In the utility world we’ve transitioned from Power Line Carrier (PLC) communications to sophisticated mesh communications and hybrid solutions that cover both rural and metro geographies.
Even this improvement has spawned additional business for the utility enterprise that has led many to begin offering additional services. Additional services where the platform itself is our necessary communications channel. Services that our electric, water or gas customers desire such as broadband and internet access. Such services that our customers will acquire from someone regardless. Who better to provide that convenience than their utility? We are there anyway and it helps pay for a communication channel that is necessary to deliver and support our utility service(s).

But, there is much more to come and the delivery of those changes are occurring like that small unnoticeable twig alongside the road that has now grown to a full-sized tree. With Meter Data Management, we no longer have to do a site visit to receive as much as three dozen indicators (Quality Codes) that quantify and qualify the condition of that end-point. But, there is much more we can do through that capable convenience.

While we may not agree on exactly how much weather affects our electric (and water and gas) usage, we all do agree that weather is one of the most significant factors affecting our service usage. Local weather information and the ability to utilize that data to get ahead or even just prepare for a significant weather event couldn’t get more local than at the metering device servicing a customer’s location. Again, the capability of providing very local weather information (and forecast) is a product of a service point where we already are anyway.

Think of it this way: warming or cooling a house incrementally, as opposed to an all-out “turn the thermostat up or down ten degrees” at once, minimizes the customer’s bill in preparation for that weather event while at the same time aiding the load demand at the utility. And, guess what? Along with a few additional aggregations (and analytics) the information of that coming weather event can be provided to the customer in the now-accepted and readily available method of mobile communications - through the smart phone, customer’s internet address or even to their watch!

Best yet, a utility can charge for this service. And, there is much more of this type of convenience services that can be provided from the customer’s utility. I won’t say a utility has a localized monopoly, but we do have a captive audience. An audience that can use and pay for services their local utility can provide better than other businesses.

In summary, I believe that the internet of things (IoT) is becoming much more than even that. Think of the capabilities we have now and will have in the very quick future. This information highway “scenery” is changing our quest for information from the Internet of Things (IoT) to the Internet of EVERYTHING (IoE).

More to come ……