Opportunities for Big Data to Improve Energy Usage Across Industries

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As many industries become modernized with the widespread adoption of technologies like IoT sensors, wireless transmission, network communication tools and the cloud, large amounts of data are also flowing in. This data has the potential to provide a multitude of insights on energy efficiency, usage and more.

A digital transformation, if you will, is what the energy industry is currently seeing, which will provide an unprecedented amount of information and intel. This shift can, presumably, be used to assess and manage energy usage as well as the operation of large-scale energy providers. The energy management systems market is expected to be worth $76 billion by 2021.

But all industries have the opportunity to benefit, not just the energy sector. According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the data collected from smart grid technologies may be used to generate cost savings up to $2 trillion by 2030.

The Case for Energy Efficiency

You might be alarmed to learn that the U.S. economy wastes anywhere from 61 to 86 percent of the energy that flows through it. On average, Americans spend $130 billion a year on wasted power. That means any business — big or small — is a major contributor as well. Therefore, being mindful of energy consumption and cutting down on the total amount used could net significant cost savings. Even something as simple as swapping out light bulbs for more efficient types can be helpful. Almost 20 percent of the electricity used in commercial U.S. buildings is for lighting. That need for efficiency touches upon nearly all industries today as operating costs continue to climb. Manufacturers and retailers look to improve their energy consumption. The plastics industry has begun a push for more energy-efficient technologies. Even automotive is seeing a rebirth, where electric and hybrid vehicles are taking precedence for their efficiency — as well as the processes used to build them.

But, a shift to a more energy-efficient society is going to take more than just a couple businesses or providers to make it happen. Believe it or not, big data will help facilitate this change in the following ways.

1. More Efficient Than Ever

When trying to maintain a neutral energy footprint, especially as a large organization, you have to look at more than just the utility bill. For companies that are positioned across multiple countries, there are government fees and taxes to consider, leased equipment and even third-party services. Then, there are infrastructure costs and more. All of these things add up to the full cost of what a business is paying for energy. Big data, or the kind of data being collected about energy usage, can help make these credit lines more efficient simply because the analytics tools being used can now reach these areas, where they couldn’t before.

Companies like ENGIE Insight, offer a third-party continuous energy monitoring solution that currently serves huge retailers such as JCPenney, Arby’s and more. It’s all facilitated by big data and information collected about energy consumption.

2. Going Green

Speaking of reducing an energy footprint, the act of ‘Going Green’ in and of itself requires a lot of data and information. One of the first things you do before making any changes is order an energy audit, where a professional comes in and measures the total consumption of your business or property and then reveals major waste sources. But once you make the necessary changes, it takes upkeep to ensure you remain balanced. By implementing big data systems, organizations can accurately evaluate green strategies and components and ensure they are actually working. They can also use the same systems to come up with new areas where they can go Green.

Google is a great example of a company using their massive trove of data and information to transform into a more eco-friendly business.

3. IoT and Smart Setups

Things like automated lighting, remote controlled machinery and systems and smarter, more efficient tools can be used to improve energy efficiency across the board. Thanks to the birth of “smart” technology, otherwise known as the Internet of Things, a variety of sensors, data collection tools and networking devices have been introduced. Even AI, which has started to perform certain tasks better than humans, has changed our processes and promoted energy efficiency. Companies can use these tools to outfit old and new equipment and make sure everything is running smoothly. Furthermore, the systems can be set to disable or shut-down on a schedule — or even remotely — which could significantly cut down on energy usage.

Tech companies like Silicon Valley-based Enlightened have helped clients cut down their lighting bills by as much as 70 percent thanks to their smart, IoT-enabled equipment.

It’s this move to more efficient, more responsible operators that has helped big data thrive in the energy sector and across various industries. We’re sure to see a whole lot more going forward.

About the Author

Contributed by: Kayla Matthews, a technology writer and blogger covering big data topics for websites like Productivity Bytes, CloudTweaks, SandHill and VMblog.


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  1. It’s true that big data can help improve energy efficiency across multiple industries. One of the biggest reasons why this is true is that companies who are involved with energy usage can use the data to make the business of energy production a lot more cost-effective.