‘The future of energy is AI’

Ian Sykes approvedIn the wake of the Fourth Industrial revolution, governments and businesses across the Middle East are beginning to realise the shift globally towards AI and advanced technologies. Ian Sykes, regional director at Sensus, speaks to Technical Review Middle East about ts rising potential in reshaping the energy sector 

Technical Review Middle East: How is AI aiding the energy landscape in the region?

Ian Sykes (IS): The Middle East – in particular, the UAE – is experiencing an unparalleled digital transformation across all sectors, with governments increasingly focused on leveraging digital technologies, AI and Big Data to achieve competitive advantage.

The water sector is an example of one area making strides in harnessing the power of AI to deliver ever-increasing efficiencies for the end-user, as well as leveraging data analytics to improve the uses of technology. For example, DEWA recently announced that it would develop the world’s first automated, AI-powered renewable energy digital utility in Dubai – pioneering a new model of utility services driven by innovation. Abu Dhabi government officials to have announced plans to leverage AI and digital transformation to manage water consumption and monitor resources.

The development of intelligent infrastructures and automated systems not only allows utilities to monitor a wide range of assets in real time, creating many business efficiencies but also enables the energy sector to tap into a more complete data set up, including better sensors, cybersecurity protocols, and supply chain optimisation.

The commercial potential of offering AI capabilities for utility companies is abundantly obvious in more ways than one, but there is a lot to be said for partnering with companies that have perfected their experience within one field to ensure the best possible delivery, as well as having the depth of experience and skill to understand the implementation from end-to-end.

TRME: What is the kind of investment that will go into the AI segment in the energy sector in the coming five years?

IS: As the global AI market is expected to reach a huge value of US$3.06 trillion by 2025, it is difficult to measure how much is dedicated to the energy sectors.

TRME: Why are energy companies adopting AI?

IS: Traditionally, water utilities may not have always embraced new and innovative digital technologies. However, many are now realising the huge potential technology holds and the power it has to help them better manage their network such as predicting how their infrastructure will perform and when and where the network will require maintenance. The realisation that AI will bring savings, energy efficiencies, improved security for critical infrastructure and the ability to build more distributed energy systems is a big draw. In short, the insights data can provide can help utility companies ensure their operations run much far more efficiently and securely.

TRME: How do you do away with cybersecurity oncerns?

IS: Cybersecurity and AI have long gone hand-in-hand. The security of an energy network is a major concern for any energy provider. For example, a network outage occurring due to a security breach or as a result of the actions of hackers would be catastrophic. It is therefore vital that agile and intelligent security processes implemented throughout the company, with regular audits and reviews, to ensure that all internal and external communication is secure and protected.

Some often rest on their laurels once industry standard levels are ‘achieved.’ However, it is not these standards themselves that are the most important aspect in delivering a highly secure system rather it is how these security methods are implemented and integrated.

At Sensus, we’ve built a secure, end-to-end system architecture throughout FlexNet, using best practice and the highest industry security standards. If a utility is putting their trust into the hands of a supplier, for instance, they need to be sure that the best internal security guidelines are being adhered to.

TRME: What are the risks and challenges of adopting AI?

IS: The widespread adoption of AI still faces lots of barriers, despite its proven benefits for the companies that have effectively implemented the technology. It’s important to remember that AI is still very much in its infancy – and one of the main challenges can be linked to the resistance of change, as well as a rooted scepticism about whether or not AI can actually deliver tangible results.

Utilities must incorporate AI in their approach to data management from the top down. Simply adding new technology to the pre-existing technology will not work as you’ll not only be left with a bigger bill but even bigger challenges in the future. Those companies which prioritise the implementation of an intelligent IT infrastructure that facilitates drawing and using insights from the data to evolve and adapt their technology over time – in line with technological advances and social requirements – will retain their competitive advantage in the long-term.

Alain Charles Publishing, University House, 11-13 Lower Grosvenor Place, London, SW1W 0EX, UK
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