Christmas Lights, Big Data, And The Utilities Industry

Lindsey Nelson

There’s this house about 15 minutes away from me and for the past six years these people cover their home in Christmas lights. Now I know what you’re thinking, Chevy Chase in flannel with a staple gun stapling 25,000 imported twinkling lights to his quaint Suburban home, but this is way more high tech than that, and way bigger than Clark’s.

They transform their home into a Christmas light wonderland, synching the patterns of the lights to their very own radio, playing the seasons classics. 50,000 animated lights, 3 miles of extension cord, 448 individually computer controlled LOR Channels, and so much more, all with a set up time of 4 weeks plus 30 extra hours of programming. Even if you’re a notorious Grinch, I’d put money on the table you’d walk away with at least some holiday spirit.

Being the curious person I am, I wondered as everyone oo-ed and ah-ed, how much would this cost in electricity ($75 extra for this house)? Are the utility companies utilizing big data and analytics so they expect a jump in this fanatic’s grid each year?

You’d never think that your energy bill might have something more to say than you have a serious case of Christmas spirit, but you’d be surprised how much it has to share.

All that charging, illuminating, and so forth is actually data, hundreds of thousands of bytes of information that can shed light on new opportunities for the utilities industry. Opportunities such as new products for home efficiency services to decreasing operational and capital expenses.

Sounds smart right?

In fact, smart is just the word being used to describe these new meters, grids, and other initiatives. These intelligent devices are part of a comprehensive network where information is collected and then examined by utilities using analytics software.

These efforts are enabling people and businesses to save energy and money while bringing the utilities industry up to technology par. Previously, the data from meters and grids was collected, at the very least, monthly. Now, a digital smart reader can collect on 15 minute intervals – meaning the utilities industry could be handling more data than any other.

So how can big data help utilities transform its industry?

  • They are in the prime position to benefit from big data because they are already used to dealing with data. Having the experience to capture, analyze and understand the information at hand gives them a leg up on gaining visibility, insight over operations, and energy patterns and security.
  • Smart grids providing both companies and businesses the opportunity to forecast their usage for budgeting purposes, as well as determine fraud and predict certain maintenance requirements. How? With all their big data of course. This in turn will allow smart grids to evolve and eventually they will respond on their own intelligent terms, by turning things off and on as they see fit.
  • Smart meters, using the big data collected, have the ability to display fluctuating electricity prices to the house owner. Giving them the opportunity to perform their high consumption chores like laundry at times when the price is low, in turn saving money for the users. Or for example when your next door neighbor wants to turn on his annual light display.

So whether you’re draining your smart energry grid with your holiday spirit, or just looking for the best time to wash your Grinch suit, just know the utilities industry is getting smart with your big data and most likely looking for ways to save you money, which could be the best gift of all.


About Lindsey Nelson

Lindsey Nelson currently supports Content and Enablement at SAP. Prior to her current role, she was responsible for Thought Leadership Content Strategy and Pull Marketing Strategy at SAP.