Computer systems must move beyond insular needs (billing and work orders)
to marketing opportunities. But few regulators really understand.
Everywhere we see the march of technology, especially computer and information technology. Pagers hang on nearly every belt or bag, PDAs have replaced notebooks and portfolios, computers sit on more home desks, and every major magazine and almost every daily paper has sections dedicated to news about the Internet.
Virtually every office desk holds a computer, offices are connected by networks, and networks connect offices around the globe. Our auto repair specialists must have computers for the complicated components in our cars. Card catalogs have been replaced by CD-ROM systems. Even the grocery store scans purchases, debits customers' bank accounts, and automates inventory, stock ordering, and accounts.
To the casual observer, the computer and information revolution has missed the electric power industry. Outside our homes and businesses, a mechanical meter, just like the ones that have been there for decades, turns quietly, registering incomprehensible information that must be physically read and translated into a bill that reliably arrives every month.
What we see as individual customers, however, disguises a revolution. The electric utility industry, too, is caught in the technological whirlwind, as are the other utility sectors, from natural gas to telecommunications. Utility managers are now offered a host of new information technologies that will allow more efficient operations, better data collection and retrieval, and better decisions.