“Alexa, how can I cut my energy bill?”

by Mark Thompson

Mark Thompson

Mark Thompson of AMT-SYBEX describes how Energy Midata could open up new opportunities for the energy sector

 

AMT-SYBEX has always invested in projects that map out innovative visions of the future of the energy industry—and now that we’re part of the Capita group, we have even more resources at our disposal to focus on these initiatives.

For example, we recently worked with a group of organisations including product and service design agency Orange Bus, one of our fellow Capita companies, to explore how emerging technologies could change the way consumers interact with suppliers of home services. Rather than approaching this opportunity from a utility industry perspective, Orange Bus helped us look through the lens of the customer and get a different view of the impact of industry changes and social trends.

A fresh point of view

When you’re working in the industry, it’s all too easy to think of smart metering as a technical change that affects core business processes such as network management and billing. But from a customer perspective, the context is completely different. Smart meters are just one connected device among many in today’s homes—from phones, tablets and PCs to voice-powered assistants such as Amazon Alexa, and home automation systems such as thermostats, security cameras, and even lightbulbs.

These technologies promise to make life easier and more convenient, but often that doesn’t happen. A lack of open standards for data integration means that users typically end up having to use a separate app to interact with each device. Any company that can turn all this data into a real asset and provide genuinely useful—and monetisable—products and services has the opportunity to transform the way people interact with utility suppliers.

A glimpse of the future

One of the experiments we’ve run with Orange Bus imagines a future where customers can use a digital assistant such as Alexa to help them manage their day-to-day energy budget.

The solution would integrate usage and billing data from smart meters with pricing data from the energy retail market, as well as bank account information and data from telecoms, water and insurance providers. Users would then be able to ask questions in natural language, and the digital assistant would help them analyse their bills, compare costs, and even switch to a new supplier if a better deal is available.

Making it real

As we explored this scenario, we realised that this is on the verge of becoming a reality. The technology is already in place, so if the data can be made available, we could completely transform the home supplier relationship.

Rather than supplying individual commodities such as gas, electricity, water or communications, utilities could take on a range of new roles. They could become trusted advisors providing insight across all services; or brokers who trade on sophisticated markets to get the best deals for their customers; or diversified suppliers who are contracted to provide everything a home needs—effectively providing “comfort as a service”.

Building on strong foundations

With these exciting opportunities in mind, we were delighted to see the government’s response to the call for evidence for Energy Midata—an open data framework for the UK energy sector that would see suppliers share customer data with both customers and accredited third parties.

The response confirmed that Midata would be implemented on a mandatory basis for energy suppliers. It also sets out an initial design, highlighting the key data items that will be shared. Thanks to the work that has already been done on standardising industry data models and flows for smart metering, fast switching and other initiatives, most of this data is already well-defined and available in existing systems. So the industry is in a strong position to move this initiative forward quickly.

At AMT-SYBEX, we will continue to develop our technology roadmap and bring to market the products and services that will enable our clients to seize competitive advantage in this new world of open data. Meanwhile, we’re continuing to work with both strategic clients and our Capita partners to carry out innovation projects and stand up prototypes in this space. If you’d like to join us on this journey, please reach out to us and we’ll be delighted to discuss how we can build the future together.

AMT-Sybex