With disruption on all sides, the energy sector has a massive opportunity
The energy and natural resources sector is being disrupted on many different fronts. To start with, consumers are becoming more engaged in their energy services. They’re very clear about what they want, where they want it to come from, and how much they’re willing to pay. That’s putting companies under pressure to be more flexible and environmentally sustainable than ever before.
At the same time, energy and natural resources firms are evolving their business models and distribution methods while facing new entrants to the sector — some of these completely virtual. There are game-changing factors on all sides, and underneath them is the requirement to ensure safe, reliable, profitable operations.
Here’s how this is playing out in three key sub-sectors — electricity, mining, and oil and gas:
- Power utilities are deploying new infrastructure to respond to consumer, regulatory demand and expectations — from electric vehicle charging stations to residential battery storage systems. Others are upgrading the grid itself to support distributed generation, so consumers can use solar, wind, and small-scale hydro to generate their own electricity and sell any excess back to the utility. These kinds of applications require what utilities are calling a next generation grid: a highly distributed, networked environment with built-in capabilities for real-time data gathering as well as machine learning and AI-driven analytics to respond automatically to shifting conditions.
- The mining industry is working full throttle to extract the minerals needed to keep up with the growing demand for connected devices like smartphones. Lithium, cobalt and copper mines are operating around the clock. Optimizing the production and controlling the costs of these nonstop operations, while still ensuring worker safety, will require an unprecedented degree of automation and intelligence — both of which depend on a high-performance, next-generation network. Mines that extract coal, iron ore and other minerals are also under pressure to optimize operations, with efficiency being the key to maintaining profitability in increasingly volatile markets.
- In oil and gas, supply has outpaced demand, causing price fluctuations and a scramble by companies to stabilize their costs and profits. That said, demand is still high for petroleum. As consumers buy more goods from online retailers like Amazon, the need to fuel the ships, trucks, trains and planes that deliver those goods the last mile will only continue to grow. To meet demand and keep costs under control across the supply chain, oil and gas companies need their networks to operate with as much efficiency and automation as possible.
Industry 4.0 promises the transformation of these companies to achieve the right IT/OT integrations, architecture consolidations, provide intelligence to improve productivity, agility, and informed decision making to achieve operational control.
A “nervous system” for Industry 4.0
Nokia’s Bell Labs Future X for Industries architecture is designed to provide a roadmap to exactly the kinds of capabilities energy companies need. It has the flexibility to adapt as technologies shift, seamlessly incorporating private LTE, 5G and other new and emerging solutions.
The Future X for industries architecture provides the connected intelligence needed for a fully integrated industrial ecosystem, linking Industrial Internet of Things solutions, edge computing, the cloud and more. Machine learning and AI-powered analytics can be built right into the network to streamline operations, identify safety hazards, ensure optimum management and performance of mission-critical assets and more. Its reach allows these companies in the energy sector to connect into the most remote areas and support a vast range of applications, from self-driving mining trucks to drones for remote wind farm maintenance.
As various factors reshape the energy sector, demand for innovation is only going to intensify. The Future X for industries architecture enables business transformation so companies can respond to these disruptions and secure their place in the value chain for the long term — and over the long term, power a shift from being an company supplying energy, to a technology company that delivers energy services.
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