"Utility data flow will be 1.5 to 2 times higher than the traditional communications industry."

At The Soft Grid conference in San Francisco, there was a lot of talk about phrases that software analytics and smart grid industry insiders hate. For starters, plenty of people are tired of the phrase "smart grid." For others, it’s "big data," which is a slightly nebulous term that covers the very subject being covered at the conference. For at least one panelist, it's "data scientist." ("A data scientist is just an analyst who lives in California," said Cesar Rojas, senior solutions marketing manager for Teradata Aster Center of Innovation.) 

But back to data for a minute. Just how big is the data coming off of the smart grid? Well, it’s not very big compared to other industries right now, like retail, finance and telecom, but it will be, according to Linda Jackman, group vice president of product strategy and management for Oracle’s utility sector.

"Utility data flow will be 1.5 to 2 times higher than the traditional communications industry,” said Jackman, based on her team's calculation. That includes smart meters, synchrophasors, smart transformers and any other asset communicating back to the utility. One estimate, from Andres Carvallo at Proximetry, is that there are 10 billion assets on the grid that will be connected. 

Other industries, however, “[are] thinking about how to use it,” said Cesar Rojas, senior solutions marketing manager for Teradata Aster Center of Innovation. “Other industries are innovating.”

But not utilities. At least not yet. “In our mind, true analytics are much more forward-looking” than how most utilities currently use what they call analytics, according to Jackman.

It’s not that there aren’t innovators in the industry, because there are, but they are few and far between. Forecasting, according to Jackman, is where the industry needs to go, but it’s a slow slog. “It’s pilot, pilot, pilot,” she lamented. “There’s a long way to go.”

Perhaps by the time The Soft Grid 2013 comes around, the words "hesitant," and "scared" won't come up in conversation so often about most utilities' ability to embrace big data as it comes onto their networks. 

Tags: big data, smart grid, soft grid, software analytics