INNOVATION article elaborated on building the connected energy and water future. Here it is :in a Forbes
Building The Connected Energy And Water Future
We have read about many versions of our planet’s future: some good, some bad, some urgent and some distant.
In all versions, collective humanity is responsible for either the downfall or the reconstruction of the planet. Collective responsibility is fascinating. How do we mobilize billions of people toward a common goal? It is equally challenging and thrilling, as grand as it sounds and as aspiring as it can be.
Thinking about today and tomorrow, I imagine the possibilities: a world where energy and water are sustainable and abundant—a world where billions are connected and empowered. And I believe this is happening. We are gradually moving toward a connected energy and water future, with utilities, smart cities and governments playing a crucial role. They are reinventing human experiences, helping people make smart decisions about optimizing energy and water use every day.
There’s no new playbook or secret mantra to this success; the digital platforms and capabilities we’ve built have brought forth a sea of change. With them, utilities worldwide are uniting people around a common goal.
Connection Is Key
By connecting people with new technology for meaningful interactions and with front-line workers to ensure better two-way communication, utilities have started to build a digital ecosystem, enabling them to meet customer expectations and improve responsiveness.
From streamlining billing and payments to being available 24/7, providing personalized omnichannel interactions, advising on programs that help in saving energy and water and giving real-time updates, customers are getting the right assistance at every step from their utilities.
On the other hand, utilities are also enabling their field workforce with digital platforms, thus providing real-time updates, predictive insights, automation and collaboration for them, establishing a direct 1-to-1 connection with the people.
This connection is the key in mobilizing the right stakeholders to achieve sustainable goals.
So, what are we looking at? Right in front of us, we see:
• Digital utilities are changing the way we work. By blending digital investments with sustainability goals, utilities are delivering measurable outcomes.
• The mesh of IoT, AI, analytics, automation and cognitive techniques is improving predictions, personalization and service delivery. This is done by enabling decentralized work and changing how utilities engage with customers and drive workforce efficiencies.
• The next-gen customer experience is here! Utilities are shifting from a static, one-way consumer relationship to one that is dynamic, context-driven and personalized.
• Power lies first in data, then assets. Utilities are developing a long-term approach to field workforce management by reevaluating what role is played by their workforce and technologies—giving more and more to front-line workers, empowering them with data insights to manage operations remotely and engage with customers on a real-time basis.
• Investment is key. To meet their ambitious plans of moving ahead, utilities are prioritizing digital-first investments, reimagining the utility-consumer relationship and restructuring operations.
We have exciting years ahead, marked by decarbonization and decentralization agendas, changing consumer behaviors, evolving expectations and mobile field workforces. These digital-first and human-centric changes deserve applause as we march ahead to a connected future.
The Future Of The Connected Ecosystem
The connected future will be seen in our smarter homes and smarter cities as we become resource savvy citizens. We, as in billions of people, will see the rapid adoption of renewables, distributed energy resources (DERs), electric vehicles (EVs) and more, and we will see our demands for new energy and water services met. In the future, connected ecosystem utilities will achieve ambitious climate targets—not just net-zero but absolute zero. They will build an intelligent and mobile workforce on the ground using the power of predictive and preventive management to meet customer needs and manage assets.
This is the version of our planet’s future that I am most excited and passionate about.
How Do We Move Forward?
It is difficult to pin down exact steps for how utilities can meet these future needs simply because goal posts are shifting, and we never know when the next disruption will occur. However, lessons that we have learned from the past provide a good reference for how we need to adapt.
Broadly, to build a connected energy and water ecosystem, we would need the following:
1. Utilities must adopt a platform mindset that transcends simple service delivery. Utilities are and will become platform businesses that offer bundled services. For example, a digital marketplace enables customers to buy efficient products. Utilities understand their customer, and when they operate as a platform, they transform the way people consume energy and water.
2. Customers and the citizens need to sit at the center of utility operations. What they need today and will need tomorrow will guide connected experiences. They need savings today, and tomorrow, that will evolve into smart home and EV management. Only a truly customer-centric company will fruitfully engage with customers to adapt to this shift.
3. Building a robust technological foundation with pilot projects in emerging areas will help utilities become more agile and innovative. This also encourages further evolution, where business leaders become tech leaders. Tech leaders will evaluate how current processes can be automated and performed intelligently and how silos can be removed, and teams will then be able to collaborate and work toward a common goal.
4. Lastly, lessons from peers and other industries are always helpful. Keeping a close tab on what other companies are doing helps in widening our perspective and avoids tunnel vision.
I am elated by how much the energy and water industry has evolved in the past couple of years. I’m eager to see where these ambitions will lead them in the coming years.
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