Why secure data collaboration matters

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By Shamik Mehta

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  • In order for utilities to harness the power of data, internal and external collaboration on collective data must be made smoother, simpler, and more secure.
  • For most utilities, building in-house data services to cover the collection, storage, and analysis of their data isn’t feasible. 
  • The solution to the gap between IT capacity and demand is using secure data collaboration tools to streamline access and provide robust security. 
  • The Intertrust Platform is designed to make data operations easier and enable secure data collaboration across the organization and with external partners. 

The rise of the digital utility

Power utilities are positioned to be one of the leading beneficiaries of the growing digital and data revolution. Yet, currently, they are lagging when it comes to digitalization. This means that utilities are missing out on the considerable potential benefits from data-driven deployments, such as:

  • Service delivery improvement: Better data collection and analytics can improve certain factors, including outage prevention and customer pricing optimization.
  • Cost reduction: Predictive maintenance, load optimization, monitoring crew productivity, and reducing line-loss are all ways that power utilities can trace cost leakages and eliminate them.
  • Broadened revenue streams: The market for new products in the field of digital energy, such as smart home energy management, is already worth billions and is growing every year. The data held by utilities gives them a natural advantage in creating and marketing similar products.
  • Smart grid management: The distributed power generation of the future requires a flexible digital infrastructure that utilizes a vast amount of data to manage power production and distribution.

To take full advantage of the opportunities provided by digital transformation, utilities must embrace data’s potential and become digital utilities.

The potential of data 

Digital utilities already have access to data on how energy is produced, distributed, and used. The possibilities for improved revenue and reduced costs may be huge, but the likelihood of disruptive competition from digital-native behemoths such as Tesla or Amazon is also increasing. For this reason, utilities need to start moving purposefully and swiftly into the data-driven world. Fortunately, many are.

The first step is accounting for what data they have access to and its location. In many cases, data is siloed and inaccessible for analytics or  secure data collaboration with partners. For example, a large national utility may have thousands of employees across their production, distribution, maintenance, and customer service units. They may also have many decades of household energy usage, billing, tariff, and (increasingly) smart meter and other demographic data.  However, collating that data in the same format and in a storage capacity that makes analysis possible requires an entire infrastructure and supporting department to oversee. If every unit works fine individually, the non-sharing of critical data or extraction of business intelligence may never be questioned. However, the opportunity cost of underused data is still real.

The next step for a digital utility is putting data to use and maximizing its value. This requires unifying and combining data from different formats, types, and locations to give a real-time, unified view of the organization’s data holdings. It also requires understanding of how the data can be used to enhance their business offering.

Why secure data collaboration is a must

To harness the transformative potential of their data, digital utilities must make internal and external collaboration simpler. Internally, units need to coordinate data-driven actions, such as nudging consumers towards consumption that optimizes load or reduces maintenance needs. For external collaborations, the possibilities are endless, ranging from the standard linkage between individual distributed energy resources (DERs) to working with electric vehicle (EV) producers to coordinate optimal charging point facilities.

To maximize the value of data, organizations need to be able to use it across an organization and integrate data insights from collaborators in order to fill gaps where they arise. Unfortunately, secure data collaboration also faces large obstacles, including:

  • Lack of appropriate architecture: Without the right data architecture, certain analytics functions may not deliver the insights utilities need.
  • Regulatory constraints: Sharing of consumer data must adhere to strict privacy regulations in certain territories such as GDPR in Europe or the California Consumer Privacy Act.
  • Access controls: When collaborating, either internally or externally, care needs to be taken over what data can be viewed and how it may be used.
  • Secure execution: It is common for data analysis to be performed using third-party products, which exposes the utility to the security risk of data breaches via these products.

How Intertrust helps digital utilities maximize data value

For most utilities, building in-house data services to cover the collection, storage, and analysis of their data isn’t feasible in the short- to medium-term. On top of this, external collaboration and the need for extra data security put huge pressure on existing IT resources, especially those who have not fully embraced the field’s increasingly digital nature. 

The solution to the gap between IT capacity and demand is using secure data collaboration tools to streamline access and provide robust security. The Intertrust Platform is designed to do exactly that, effectively addressing the pain points that prevent power utilities from maximizing the value of data. 

The Platform provides several features which enable better data usage, including:

  • Secure data collaboration: Fine-grained access controls allow complete oversight over how data is shared and what collaborators can see and do with the data.
  • Data virtualization: Enabling access to all data, regardless of format or source, a virtualized data layer allows data functions to work on the data they need when they need it.
  • Secure containers: When working with third-party analytical products, their data is containerized to reduce risk.
  • Compliance add-ons: Depending on the specific regulatory requirements that apply, we provide access to additional tools to ensure local compliance.

Conclusion

A data-driven world presents great potential for digital utilities, but they are faced with considerable obstacles. Fortunately, the Intertrust Platform is designed to make data operations easier and enable secure data collaboration across the organization and with external partners. 

To find out more about how Intertrust Platform can help your organization embrace the data revolution, download our white paper The digital utility: ensuring success in a multi-stakeholder environment or get in touch with our team.

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About Shamik Mehta

Shamik Mehta is the Director of Product Marketing for Intertrust's Data Platform. Shamik has almost 25 years of experience in semiconductors, renewable energy, Industrial IoT and data management/data analytics software. Since getting an MSEE from San Jose State University, he’s held roles in chip design, pre-sales engineering and product and strategic marketing for technology products, including software solutions and platforms. He spent 6 years at SunEdison, once the world's largest renewable energy super-major, after spending 17 years in the semiconductor industry. Shamik has experience managing global product marketing, GTM activities, thought leadership content creation and sales enablement for software applications for the Smart Energy, Electrified Transportation and Manufacturing verticals. Shamik is a Silicon Valley native, having lived, studied and worked there since the early 90’s.

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