At the SAP for Utilities conference which took place in Huntington Beach, California in September, Smart Utility Systems, a certified SAP technology partner, discussed the suitability of cloud-based solutions to enhance utility customer engagement, increase efficiency of its daily operations and create consumer value through data analytics.

Earlier this year, Smart Utility Systems (SUS) became the first organisation to be certified as an integrator of SAP's multichannel foundation for utilities and public sector – a customer-facing solution that empowers utility companies to interact with their customers through different communication channels.

These include the Web (online self-services), mobile, and social networks.

The multichannel foundation solution for utilities integrates the company’s customer engagement SaaS platform, smart customer mobile, as a combined solution affording customers a host of services accessible on their mobile phones.

The platform is designed as an interactive tool giving customers access to their water, gas and/or electric bills as well as consumption comparisons with similar households, utility bill payment from anywhere; notifications of potential leaks; and tracking conservation programmes.

Kurt Sweetser, ‎executive VP for Alliance Partnerships and Customer Relations at Smart Utility Systems, asserted that: “Cloud-enabled platforms are the ultimate solution to enhance [customer engagement], due to the fact that ‘cloud’ is scalable.”

Partnership with SAP

Partnering with the multinational software corporation, SAP, since 2013, has assisted SUS in expanding their business operations globally, said Mr Sweetser.

The company is partnering with SAP’s general and vertical sales teams to explore further opportunities in other countries as far afield as Dubai.

Creating value through real-time data

Meter data processingCommenting on the trends and demand for more streamlined utility back office operations, Sweetser noted that “smart mobile workforce management incorporates everything that the utility would need to perform administrative tasks.

He added: “Smart mobile workforce management also has to do with utilities’ training, scheduling, safety issues in the field, asset management tools, inventory capabilities, as well as timesheet capabilities – basically everything that a worker would have in the field on a daily basis.”

The SUS executive further noted that the SUS smart mobile workforce platform creates the ideal scenario for single-point entry to back office operations for all utility divisions – generation, transmission and distribution – instead of having disjointed access processes for each business unit.

Encouraging conservation through apps

Sweetser also addressed the need for intelligent water systems, particularly in drought-stricken states such as California, and in areas where water leaks and wastage can have a large negative impact.

The company adds that water conservation is a major growth opportunity, due to the increasing concern over water scarcity. Applications are also now available which address new regulations and requirements for water, as in California’s emergency conservation regulation. These applications can perform a number of functions including audits, reports and monitor conservation and leak management, bringing utility operations in line with state law.

Geospatial intelligence will usher in the next major trend in location based and real-time analytics. Sweetser explains that advancement of technology is making it easier for utilities and customers to interact – with information becoming more and more precise as technology advances.

He gave an example of a incident whereby a customer comes across a water leak and sends an image of the leak to the his/her utility, allowing the utility to be able to make the correct decisions as to the number of personnel required and establish the equipment needed to fix the problem. This type of software will also help utilities determine the most critical incidents - and devise a plan to address those first and manage workflow according to priority.

The company believes ultimately that “it’s about giving customers what they want and what they need.”