The world is undergoing a shift, moving from our analog pasts into a technologically enhanced future. With the advent of big data, cloud computing, and social technology, companies are increasingly realising the importance of being onboard this digital track.
For example, only a few years ago, traditional DVD-rental stores ruled distribution in the entertainment market. With the arrival of Netflix however, their entire business model was disrupted – resulting in business closure. Global players such as General Electric, LEGO, McDonald’s and Starbucks have also anchored on to digital trends, by restructuring business models and adopting digital tools and infrastructure.
The utilities industry is no different. Energy providers are employing increasingly creative methods to retain their value in this fast-moving economy. According to a white paper by the World Economic Forum (WEF) in collaboration with Accenture, there is an estimated $1.3 trillion of value to be captured globally from 2016 to 2025 from the rapid digitisation of the electricity industry.
For energy companies, power outages are one of the issues that require management. While outages and related incidents are part and parcel of the industry, the real challenge lies with incident identification, remediation, and prevention.
the real challenge lies with incident identification, remediation, and prevention.
Many technology services companies, such as IBM Watson, now also equip energy companies with digital solutions for these issues. They do so by capitalising on data and analytics capabilities.
Enter in drone technology. It is predicted that the adoption of drones will be one of the top four trends to shape the energy utilities sector in the future. Known for its application in photography and military surveillance, drones can offer various benefits to the energy market.
Its capabilities include visual inspections of pipelines, powerlines, and other assets owned by energy organisations. As we progress into the future, there is also the possibility that drones will evolve to take on autonomous tasks and simple repairs.
Presently, data collected from drones can be integrated into software platforms, which can be transmitted straight to engineers in the field. This availability of real-time data is crucial to assist workers in making quick and timely decisions. For electricity companies, the monitoring of power grids using drones can help address infrastructure maintenance issues in a speedy way.
The usage of drones, or Unmanned Aerial System (UAS), to monitor transmission lines was also recently adopted by TNB. Previously, TNB would fly helicopters over the lines to inspect their conditions – a time consuming and costly method. Since the introduction of the drones in December 2016, TNB announced an estimated RM1million (~US$233,590) in savings. The project also won TNB Best Digital Transformation Project at the recent Asian Utility Innovation Week 2017 – proof that there is increasing recognition of the importance of digital reforms in the industry.
More than just a buzzword, digital transformation has the capacity to bring about real change. The commercial application of innovative technologies, such as drones, will impact and improve the business models of many organisations. PwC estimates that the global market value for drone powered business solutions is over $127.3 billion (RM535.11 billion) – a huge number signifying huge potentials.
The opportunities are overwhelming. By leveraging on the opportunities that drone technology will bring, the energy industry will be able to enhance existing operations, increase efficiency, and ultimately provide better services to the market.
As drones become more commonplace in the coming years, it will not be a question of if, but when, companies begin investing in their potential.