For companies in the oil and gas industry, as well as the power and utilities sector, digital transformation can lead to greater productivity, higher profitability and improved decision-making. Harnessing the power of digital transformation strategies can also help businesses become more agile.

From tackling cybersecurity threats to hiring robots in the back office, here are five technology trends shaping the future of energy, power and utility companies.

1. Increased spending on data analytics

According to a recent report by GTM Research, North American utilities spent $4 billion on analytics in 2017, and are expected to spend up to $20 billion through 2021. In addition to existing advanced metering infrastructure and back-office IT systems, the report predicts that utilities will increase spending on customer analytics captured through IoT-connected devices, such as smart appliances.

2. Cybersecurity remains a key priority

Energy and power companies are considered prime targets for state-sponsored cyberattacks, where foreign actors attempt to take control of the energy grid. This could be why 72 percent of utility professionals said physical and cybersecurity are either “important” or “very important” in a 2017 survey. In the meantime, companies are turning to new strategies such as behavioural analytics, machine learning and threat intelligence to bolster their defences against cyberattacks.

3. Artificial Intelligence introduces new possibilities

AI has the potential to bring greater efficiencies and cost savings to the energy and utilities sectors. Some of the use cases for AI include:

  • Collecting and synthesizing data to boost awareness, efficiency and maintenance of grid systems and power plants
  • Actively managing the grid to avoid disruptions and balance the use of fossil fuels and renewable energy sources
  • Improved planning and forecasting to drastically reduce drilling risk
  • Assessing key variables from well integrity and drilling-equipment condition to seismic vibrations and thermal gradients
  • Being used in modeling, field surveillance and reservoir characterization to contain production costs and increase recovery

4. Companies keep looking to the cloud

Thanks to cloud platforms, energy and utility companies can capitalize on analytics, machine learning, IoT, edge computing, Software as a Service (SaaS) and much more. As the cloud has evolved, data security concerns have decreased while cloud solutions targeting the energy sector are growing. Cloud computing can provide energy companies with seamless, immediate access to data, allowing workers from all over the world to make informed decisions, which in turn can increase productivity and revenue.

5. Robots. Actual robots…

Robots are already being used in the energy sector to handle dangerous tasks such as connecting heavy pipe segments for both land and offshore wells. But we could soon be seeing more robots in the back office, as well.

By imitating how humans interact with applications, Robotics Process Automation (RPA) Bots can speed up routine, repetitive tasks and free up the human workforce to handle more skilled, demanding business needs. Some of the tasks that robots could take over include high-volume transactions such as timesheet reporting, standardized processes like IT security operations and high-input tasks like processing invoices.

To learn more about technology solutions for the energy and utilities sector, contact your CDW account manager at 800.972.3922 or visit CDW.ca/energy

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