Oracle plans on acquiring DataRaker, builder of a cloud-based analytics platform for electric, gas, and water utilities. Oracle plans on combining DataRaker’s technology with its own Oracle Utilities software, apparently boosting the efficiency of both; however, a more detailed outline of that integration will probably have to wait until Oracle can finish reviewing the existing DataRaker product roadmap.
“Smart utilities” is a rapidly emerging segment of the data analytics market. In theory, utility companies can sprinkle their infrastructure with lots of sensors, then mine the resulting inflow of data for insight into optimizing operations. DataRaker’s platform targets multiple aspects of the utility business, including customer support and network operations; customers could use it to improve cash collections by detecting any irregularities in meters and service, for example, or make the grid more efficient by forecasting peaks in demand.
“Big Data created by smart meters and sensors has presented utilities with an enormous opportunity to improve operations and deliver better customer service,” Rodger Smith, senior vice president and general manager of Oracle Utilities, wrote in a statement attached to the acquisition announcement, “by acting on the unique insights that can only be found by understanding the massive amounts of data coming from their customers and networks.”
Oracle Utilities builds software applications for the various aspects of utility management; it’s certainly not the only IT giant interested in making the power grid more efficient. Over the past few years, companies ranging from Intel to Google and Microsoft have explored some variation on smart metering and home-energy monitoring, with mixed success; a number of startups have also gotten in on the game. Nonetheless, some recent surveys have demonstrated a desire for data-refined utilities.
Over the summer, Oracle surveyed 151 senior-level executives at North American utilities with smart meter programs. Some 45 percent of respondents felt that, despite the use of smart meters (or perhaps because of them), their utilities struggled to report information to business managers in a timely manner. In addition, 50 percent reported their company had missed opportunities to deliver “useful information” to customers.
“A vast majority of utility executives are working to enhance their ability to glean real intelligence from smart grid data—to ultimately create new opportunities to improve service reliability and deliver useful information to customers,” Rodger Smith wrote in a statement at the time. “Utilities can benefit from establishing enterprise information strategies, and investing in the systems and people needed to make better business decisions.”