Industry Outlook for 2018

With the start of an exciting New Year, what changes and innovations can we expect to see shaping our industry? Let’s review some of our key outlooks and what we’re projecting will drive utilities in 2018:

Use of asset performance management will continue to grow
We saw the use of asset performance management growing in 2017, and that will only continue into 2018. The majority of utilities will be using some form of APM innovations and tools to manage their critical operational assets to help improve operational performance – as well as their customer’s experience. In fact, a recent IDC report, “IDC FutureScape: Worldwide Utilities 2018 Predictions” echoes this, indicating that as many as 75 percent of gas, water, and electric utilities will have implemented APM by 2019.

Solutions for grid and utility cybersecurity will be top of mind
With the explosion of the Internet of Things (IoT) and the wide variety of devices and products that are now vulnerable to cyber-attacks, cybersecurity was increasingly a topic of concern for utilities in 2017. A report from Accenture, “Outsmarting Grid Security Threats,” showed that 76 percent of North American utility executives believe their country faces at least a moderate risk of electricity supply interruption from a cyber attack on electric distribution grids in the next five years. That focus will only grow in 2018, with utilities modifying their approaches to security to include both cybersecurity and physical security solutions, as well as privacy and data protection. Deloitte’s latest “2018 outlook on power and utilities” indicates this as well, with utilities increasingly working together and with the U.S. government to detect, prevent, and prepare for these risks.

Emerging technologies like AR will continue to shape the workforce
“Big data” has been the buzz word for utilities for some time now, but the next step moving into 2018 will be making that data available to the right people at the right time using new, emerging and immersive technologies. Augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and even mixed reality (MR) will start to play a more important role in the utility landscape, especially from a safety, speed and efficiency perspective. This article in POWERGRID International provides a key use case in the situation of a utility responding to an outage with a professional “on the ground” at that location. The lineman would be able to use a mobile tablet to capture images of the damaged equipment and, with AR, an overlay of data would show everything from product number to maintenance history. This capability will help utilities to expedite repairs and restore power more quickly than the typical manual response.

Expansion of Wi-Fi and the greater proliferation of cloud-based networks
Many of us are accustomed to the regular advancement of Wi-Fi technology in our consumer lives. With 2018 we’ll see a continued advance in enterprise Wi-Fi and industrial applications. The focus will be reviewing and, in some cases, implementing the latest IEEE protocol, which includes MU-MIMO, or multi-user multiple-input, multiple-output technology, and 802.11ac. Furthermore, we’ll continue to see a shift toward cloud-based networks that can reduce operating expenses and improve reliability and availability. This article in Network World further forecasts the specifications and expected trends in networking.

Readers, do you agree with some of these outlooks for 2018? Share your thoughts and questions with us here.