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Centrica deploys large scale Hortonworks cluster to boost business

Utility company Centrica is looking at how to grow the business by harvesting data lakes

Centrica has deployed the UK’s largest Hortonworks Data Platform (HDP) cluster to power its data analytics in a bid to become a data-driven business.

The tools will be used to help Centrica reduce operational costs and streamline business processes such as forecasting and reporting.

Centrica used HDP to correlate data across different business units that were previously isolated. This was done to identify data patterns, which can then be used to improve the customer experience.

The utility firm implemented a consolidated data lake to put data closer to its customers and increase the efficiency of business decision-making. 

“We couldn’t have embarked on such an ambitious big data journey without a partner able to understand our customer needs and the market we operate in,” said Daljit Rehal, director of strategic systems at Centrica.

Centrica has paved the way in big data innovation in the UK, having established the country’s largest live operational HDP cluster. The company has created a strong pool of talent both in-house and at local universities, growing the in-house team considerably.

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In a recent financial call, Mark Hodges, chief executive, energy supply and services of UK & Ireland at Centrica, discussed the benefits of analytics as part of the company’s Hive connected home product.

“It’s really this integrating of the devices, the ‘hero’ products and the hub through the data analytics and trying to figure out a way to monetise that in terms of a revenue stream, which we see as the real prize,” he said.

“We don’t have an answer for that now. There isn’t an answer out there in the market – that’s something we’re working on. We’ll get there through testing and learning different types of opportunities. That’s a key focus for the team every day.”

Closer links to the customer

Among those opportunities is the ability to use analytics to build close links with the customer in a way previously not possible for utility companies.

Speaking to Computer Weekly earlier in 2016, Kassir Hussain, director of British Gas Connected Home at Centrica, said: “We offer HomeCare to four million customers.”

The company started working with central heating boiler maker Worcester Bosch to collect boiler diagnostics remotely. With such a connected boiler, the company’s Hive internet thermostat system starts to become a service, said Hussain.

As Computer Weekly previously reported, the company’s British Gas division used QlikView dashboards on Hadoop data lake to support its smart meter programme. 

QlikView provides self-service analysis on top of a Hadoop data lake. The data lake contains more than nine billion records and takes in data from sources including more than 150 SAP tables.

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