How technology can help Utility companies keep the power customers

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“How’s the weather?” is an everyday question. But that question can generate potentially devastating answers in today’s energy-hungry world. When temperatures soar or lightning strikes, energy and utility companies may have to scramble to meet air conditioning power demands or restore electricity to thousands of businesses, homes and families.

According to a study of US Department of Energy data from an 18-year period, approximately 78 percent of the reported electric grid disruptions were weather-related, and caused by temperature extremes, thunderstorms, tornadoes, hurricanes and other severe storms. Those grid disruptions affected 178 million metered customers. And aging infrastructure means disruptions could become increasingly severe as time goes on.

The ability of the energy industry to mitigate these weather-related risks has recently improved dramatically. For over 30 years, The Weather Company has distributed weather data and forecast information to the aviation, energy, marine and media sectors. The Weather Channel, one of the company’s properties, is seen by millions of individual consumers. Now IBM and The Weather Company are partnering to combine weather data with advanced analytics to deliver a new level of services.

Powerful predictive, behavioral and cognitive analytics techniques from IBM combined with curated data from the Weather Company allow energy and utility companies to respond rapidly to outages and efficiently plan power distribution for peak demand periods. These analytics techniques include the following capabilities:

• Load forecasting: Analytics uncover short- and long-term demand patterns in hyperlocal areas to avoid demand-created outages and increase the efficiency of weekly and monthly supply demand planning.
• Outage prediction and response optimization: Crews and materials can be deployed quickly to areas with the most anticipated need, reducing outage durations and remediation costs.
• Predictive asset failure: Weather data combined with asset information and analytics can be used to proactively monitor assets and predict failure before it happens, allowing energy and utilities companies to proactively maintain grid assets to keep the lights on in case of emergency.

By enabling companies to act rather than simply react based on weather information, these new services stand to boost business efficiency and reduce costs while helping ensure businesses keep the lights on and consumers stay comfortable.

While energy and utilities companies can be particularly vulnerable when extreme weather strikes, new services developed by IBM and The Weather Company can benefit a broad range of businesses, allowing them to plan further ahead than the morning meteorologist’s report by integrating real-time weather insights into business decision-making. Developers can even incorporate the services into their own new applications.

IBM and The Weather Company are delivering cloud-based weather analytics services to businesses in three key ways:

• Watson Analytics for weather: This technology enables easy integration of historical and real-time weather data in business operations and decision-making with IBM Analytics platforms such as IBM Watson Analytics. Joint industry solutions support energy and utilities, insurance, logistics organizations and retail, among others.
• Cloud and mobile app developer tools: Entrepreneurs and software developers will be able to rapidly build mobile and web apps that take advantage of The Weather Company data combined with data from operational systems, connected devices and sensors using advanced analytics through the IBM Bluemix cloud application development platform.
• Business and operational weather expertise: Thousands of consultants from across IBM Global Business Services are trained to combine data from The Weather Company with other sources to more effectively interpret industry pain points and provide clients with new insights that solve business problems.

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