Rebecca Smith looks at how utilities are filtering the flood of information inundating them from the millions of meters, sensors and smart controllers installed over the last decade. "As utilities get their arms around the data, the implications for consumers could be significant," she says. The data is already speeding up repair processes, alerting customers to abnormal electricity use, and tipping off utilities to electricity theft.
"The power industry 'is where the retail industry was 25 years ago, when it was just beginning to use bar codes and scanners,' says Ken Seiden, director of energy for Navigant Consulting Inc. Retailers initially saw scanners as a way to trim labor costs, but soon found the devices helped them sharpen inventories and provided new insights into consumer preferences. Mr. Seiden believes utilities will learn a great deal more about their customers as well, thanks to the meters."