The Importance of Real-Time Data at DistribuTECH 2014
Although a cold and “the cold” attempted to keep me from attending DistribuTECH this year, I eventually found myself exiting the jetway into San Antonio International Airport. Arriving at the show later that day, I learned that more than 10,000 attendees from over 60 countries were attending, making for a busy conference and very long lines for coffee. This may be the last year for a San Antonio DistribuTECH, as the show was simply bursting at the seams, pushing the limits of what the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center could hold. It sounds like the show may flip between the San Diego and Orlando Convention Centers in the future.
At this year’s DistribuTECH, a number of topics were covered both in sessions and the types of vendors found on the tradeshow floor. From automation and control systems, smart metering, grid operations and reliability, to power delivery equipment, and commercial and industrial energy management technology. This show had it all.
Big Data, Analytics and Cloud Computing are No Longer on the Periphery
I’ve attended DistribuTECH for many years, but as I walked the tradeshow floor this year, I was struck by a significant difference. This year marked the year that software surpassed hardware. In other words, the digital elements of DistribuTECH, which in previous years were more in the periphery, had now come centerstage. Big Data, Analytics and Cloud Computing were everywhere. The topics found their ways into conference sessions and into the minds of attendees and analysts from the LCD and plasma display panels of many vendors.
What can we extrapolate from this? In my opinion, it marks a significant change in the utility industry. It marks a point in time where instead of viewing data from a “what happened” perspective, engineers are now viewing data from a “what IS happening” perspective. Real-time data is now available at their fingertips, letting them make changes on-the-fly. The value of using real-time data beginning to ripple through utilities. Now, with software tools that capture and report data in infinite ways, their ability to proactively, as opposed to reactively, act is transformed.
At DistribuTECH this year, you could also see how the ability to gather data real-time is impacting line and service crews. Just walking around the show floor, you could see the multitude of ruggedized laptops and tablets that will soon find their way into the hands of meter and field technicians. Where everything was once done with pen and paper, the digital world has entered the picture or touch screen, no pun intended. The ability to gather and react to data on all levels is changing the game for utilities.
What happens next will show the real evolution of the utility industry. Those who can harness and use the data will be propelled forward. Those that cannot, will find themselves marginalized.