Big Data: efficiency, services and savings

Published on Wednesday, 12 March 2014

The Web is 25 years old. And since the day in which Tim Berners-Lee presented at CERN its memorandum to create a global hypertext system, a whole era seems to have gone by, not only a quarter of a century. Today, 571 new websites are put online every minute. And similar astonishing numbers can be mentioned for activities on the Web, including social media and apps: every 60 seconds 204.4 million emails are sent, almost 700,000 contents are shared on Facebook, 100,000 posts are tweeted, 100 hours of videos are uploaded on YouTube.

The impressive amount of information that is produced each day by people, machines and nature has a name: Big Data. To calculate its quantities a new measuring unit is being used, the zettabyte, equivalent to one sextillion bytes. Transport, consumption, marketing and every human activity produce numbers, data, which if adequately read, can provide information that is useful also to reduce traffic and waste, reduce expenses and make services more efficient.

Analytic applications and cutting-edge technologies are needed to read and interpret these data. And only in 2013, worldwide $34 billion have been invested to develop projects, models and algorithms that help make Big Data useful for the daily activity of government authorities as well as communication and financial companies.  An important challenge that is widely understood but that not everyone has seized, since only 20percent of the world's companies have launched Big Data pilot projects to improve their ability as entrepreneurs.

Big Data are also highly valuable in the energy field and this is why a few years ago the Enel Group launched pilot projects along its entire supply chain, from generation to consumption, to turn the information that comes from plants, networks and customers into a tool to improve the company's daily work. Enel's Global ICT is developing various projects for its different types of activities.

  • In energy generation, in partnership with universities and IT companies, it is developing pilot projects to realise predicting systems through the analysis of the data collected by means of sensors placed at wind farms
  • In distribution it started to regularly analyse the so-called non-technical losses, that is, abnormal behaviours in electricity consumption that often hide fraud attempts.
  • In the relations with consumers, thanks to web analytics and social listening tools, techniques to listen to conversations and semantic analyses, it has launched projects to increase the ability to understand the needs and opinions of customers who contact the company through the Web, social media or call centres.

Raw data now is the new slogan of the Web's father Tim Berners-Lee, who invites everyone to put information online to increase more and more the huge Big Data base. Enel has met the challenge by making its numbers publicly accessible as Open Data and by launching projects aimed at reading the information that comes from plants, networks and consumers, thus improving its service. The process has just started and is a long one, but not moving along this path means forgoing the opportunities that technology offers to improve the daily life of each one of us.