AI, Big Data and the Energy Industry

by | Jun 4, 2019

Artificial intelligence has breached the realms of sci-fi in recent years. In simple forms, it informs the technologies we use in our personal and business lives and its reach is expanding with new applications evolving every day. Big data is another evolving concept for modern businesses, with competitiveness relying on the collection and dissemination of – and strategic reaction to – high volumes of data.

There’s no disputing the transformative power of artificial intelligence and big data for business and our lives in general, but it also stands to affect global energy. What will the effect of these energy-intensive processes be and, against a backdrop of environmental concerns around fossil fuels and rising energy prices, how will it impact consumers?

What is artificial intelligence?
Very briefly, artificial intelligence is machine-based intellectual simulation through processes of learning, reasoning, and self-correction. Convenient, every day examples include innovations like Siri, virtual assistants, and voice recognition technology – elements which have benignly slipped into our lives without drama. With AI progressing to include both technologies that are programmed to perform specific tasks, as well as those engineered to reason and problem-solve, AI is finding increasing application across a range of industries as a cost-saving and streamlining measure. The age of the self-driving car and robotics is upon us and it stands to have a revolutionary effect on commerce.

What is big data?
The definition of big data is along the lines of complex data which increases in variety, volume, and velocity. If you give any real thought to the sheer immensity of the data being generated from every online and real-life action and transaction, the future of business will be predicated on clever use of information. The value of the data collected is becoming an increasingly fundamental business asset allowing for analysis, forecasting, pre-emption, and reaction like never before, all of which impacts the customer experience, production, maintenance, security, and innovation for a competitive edge.

The cost of the future
When it comes to artificial intelligence and big data, it would appear there is no stopping the in-roads these are making into businesses of the future. However, with climate change and sustainability becoming key drivers for modern businesses, one has to wonder the hidden energy cost associated with this tech. Bitcoin mining drew global attention for its almost extreme energy usage. Will AI and big data do the same?

What powers AI and big data?
As artificial intelligence and big data grows in popularity and application, so too will the data centres required to power and store information. This process has already started with cloud-based technologies. A year ago, 7% of the world’s energy was used to service our digital lives – through server powering and cooling, as well as device manufacture and use – and this is going to increase exponentially year-on-year. Governments around the world are trying to regulate data centres, but will this regulation keep up with the resources required to meet the world’s growing demand for these technologies?

The solutions
Will the explosion of data centres cause an energy crisis? Will the grid be able to even keep up with our needs? International companies who rely on big data are leading the charge, implementing new and more efficient technologies – and this is an encouraging starting point. The future data centre capacity requirements have no choice but to drive innovation for faster, more efficient compute systems to provide for energy-efficient processing.

What about the energy industry?
With AI ad big data playing a central role in a growing number of industries, it will most certainly have an effect on the energy industry too – and this could make a meaningful difference to consumers on the ground from a cost and supply perspective. AI stands to streamline forecasting for energy generation and demand – as well as weather patterns in the case of renewable advances. It also has the potential to manage the grid according to these forecasts.

On the ground, AI can also be used to monitor usage – informing reactive behaviour and habits for improved efficiency. This fits in well with the advent of a more empowered energy consumers in recent years, giving business owners the power to structure their usage around peak demand periods and other cost-affecting factors.

Smarter Business has integrated this into our industry-leading Openview and Dataview programs, providing a whole-view perspective on business’s energy portfolios through transparent forecasting and reporting, which allow consumers to react for increased efficiency and savings.

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