Thames Water has earmarked investments in big data analytics as part of its next five-year investment programme, with IBM awarded the contract to support it.
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Big data analytics and social media will be used to improve operations and interaction with customers. With the government planning to have smart meters in every home and business by 2020, the amount of information being collected about consumption patterns will increase considerably.
Thames Water will begin a period of investments to meet industry regulations in 2015, which will go on until 2020. This week the utility company signed contracts with suppliers to support the next regulator-initiated asset management programme, known as AMP6.
Participants in what Thames Water labels its AMP6 Alliance include companies to build the infrastructure for water supply, a programme manager and IBM to support technology and innovation.
Technology is becoming increasingly important for utilities as they attempt to offer customers value rather than just keeping operational costs down.
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“We have a significant amount of work to do in upgrading our deteriorating infrastructure over the next 25 years and beyond, while keeping customers’ bills affordable. If we are to achieve this, a different approach is required,” said Lawrence Gosden, asset director at Thames Water.
“Our focus will be on delivering value, as opposed to just cost-efficiency,” he said.
IBM plans to improve customer services by analysing a range of social media channels, including blogs, online forums and Twitter, to create real-time public opinion snapshots, thereby identifying trends and use behaviour while understanding how consumers feel towards the brand. It will use this valuable analysis to identify new ways of transforming the Thames Water front office to continue improving customer communication and service levels.
Analyst company Ovum recently said it expects utility companies to outsource more of their IT to reduce operating costs and improve customer services.