The buzzword of the day is ‘analytics.’ But what does it mean?
Alyssa Danigelis is a technology writer and Fortnightly contributing editor, based in Boulder, Colo.
Each year a big trend dominates the DistribuTECH trade show, becoming a word or phrase on the lips of exhibitors trying to attract interest on the show floor. Last year exhibitors wanted to talk about advanced distribution management systems, or ADMS. The year before, every product involved customer energy management systems. And the year before that, in-home displays were all the rage.
This year the deafening buzzword at DTECH was “analytics.” Virtually every company at the show was talking about how their gadgets perform analytics for various purposes, and some companies were launching entire business products and practices focused on analytics.
At the same time, however, many conversations at DTECH indicated that the industry isn’t exactly sure what analytics is supposed to accomplish—or even whether it involves anything fundamentally new.
For decades now, utilities have used logical data analysis methods to glean insights from historical data. That analysis depended on small samples of data, or was drawn from information entered by hand into basic relational databases. Now, as new smart grid systems come online, utilities are dealing with vastly larger amounts of data—which could potentially be used for much more sophisticated and detailed analysis than utilities ever performed before.