Utilities sector reaping the benefits of Artificial Intelligence

A new report has found that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is boosting job creation and profits in the utilities sector, while separate research suggests that there is "huge potential" for businesses to offer automated, smart technology as a product or service.

Global IT consultancy Capgemini’s new “Turning AI into concrete value” study found that 72% of the near 1,000 organisations with revenues of more than $500m that are implementing AI to automate job functions have experienced a 10% uplift in sales.

The analysis found that the business benefit was directly linked to AI implementation, while senior executives in utilities, customer service, finance and supply chain operations have all equally benefitted from the technology.

Of all industries, the utilities sector has seen the joint-highest percentage of job creation resulting from AI technology (86%). Capgemini claims that the research counters fears that AI will lead to job losses in the short term.

“AI has the capacity to revolutionize every business in every market sector; its potential is broad and unlimited,” Capgemini’s chief technology officer Ron Tolido said: “However, we are seeing a large contrast between those who are rolling out applied AI solutions at scale and reaping tangible business benefits, versus those who are simply trailing the technology. 

“It’s also quite revealing that organisations are focusing more of their efforts on the more complex AI projects and missing out on simpler projects that could drive quicker returns. Organisations, especially those not yet implementing AI at scale, should focus on those low-complexity, high benefit projects to quickly and better leverage the power of AI.”

Regarding AI implementation, two high-profile stories have already surfaced in the UK. The National Grid has confirmed that it is in the “earliest stages” of discussions exploring the use of AI, while energy start-up Upside Energy and a specialist university are trialling a demand response project that uses the technology to reduce the UK’s reliance on reserve capacity.

The report found that early adopters of AI are focusing in customers experience. In total, 73% feel that the technology can increase customer satisfaction, while 65% believe it could reduce a “future customer churn”.

Willing consumers

The customer findings of the report match new analysis from Smart Energy GB, which examined customer appetites to smart technology and automation following it’s smart meter rollout, which has been well received by UK customers.

A new Smart Energy GB report surveyed 3,000 people and found that 70% of smart meter users found the automation of the appliance appealing. Nearly two-thirds of respondents said they would use services to help them monitor appliance performance and to see what ones were using the most energy.

More than half of the respondents claimed they would be interested in receiving a service which allowed them to remotely monitor the energy use of elderly or vulnerable relatives. Overall, 87% found at least one smart tech proposition appealing.

In response to the findings, Smart Energy’s director of policy and communications Claire Maugham has called on companies to focus on utility rather than gimmicks to provide simple energy-saving benefits. Maugham also claimed that building trust with the consumer base was key for companies rolling out automation or smart-technology services.

“Many futuristic predictions have been made about how we will live our lives in decades to come. What we are certain of, thanks to this research, is that there is a strong desire for smarter goods and services among people of all ages,” Maugham said.

“This means huge potential for businesses to provide innovative services to consumers which will not only improve the way they buy and use energy, but could also have a significant impact in other parts of life. Our research particularly identified an appetite for products that address everyday challenges and save people time and money. I hope this research is useful to smart technology innovators in providing real insight about consumers’ attitudes to technology, and also in understanding the huge possibilities Britain’s national smart meter rollout presents for innovators.”   

Matt Mace

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