SAS stands among the world leaders in information technology and analytics. The company has been operating for over 28 years and is predominantly active in the finance, banking, insurance and energy sectors. Their staff includes more than 2,000 PhDs and approximately 27% of their income is reinvested into R&D.
SAS holds such a broad portfolio, can you briefly explain how the energy sector fits in?
MC: We collaborate with several energy and utilities companies in Poland, delivering business solutions, proof of concept and various pilot projects. The intention is to expand our presence in this sector as there is a great need for our technologies.
MC: EU regulations are putting pressure on the Polish economy to lower coal fired energy generation and switch to renewables instead. This goes in parallel with the need to adopt new technologies.
Many actions have been made already - intelligent meters and sensors are used increasingly and we are coming up with smarter ways to analyze the data they generate in real time.
Can you be more specific about what value we can extract by looking at this data?
MC: Speaking about intelligent meters for instance, they give us an high amount of information on households’ energy usage. The data captured and analyzed properly allow us to understand consumption behaviors and by using SAS intelligent solutions, energy vendors can adapt their offerings to meet very specific household demands precisely.
PK: Broadly speaking IoT gives us options to optimize energy consumption. For example, I can control my dishwasher with a phone to delay the start of the washing cycle to when energy prices are cheaper.
One can also use drones to fly over power lines to detect abnormal situations such as cracks or corrosion - specifically, the drone captures images, does the analytics on edge and sends information of value to the cloud or to data centers. We are also able to help our clients with predictive asset maintenance, meaning we continuously monitor their equipment, analyze data and send stress signals if an issue is identified.
What about Artificial Intelligence (AI)? It has long been regarded as a buzzword, are there any applications you can highlight?
MC: There are numerous business applications using it, for instance in charging of electric vehicles (EV) management. The new trend is that EVs can discharge energy to the distribution network from their batteries as well and generate income for their owners. This activity should be taken into account by energy forecasting systems.
PK: Artificial Intelligence is helpful in predicting and forecasting. For example, when you return home and plug in your EV, the AI system can predict when you will be going to work again and will fully charge the vehicle during the time when energy is cheaper and add surplus for selling it during peak hours.
To have these options at hand is truly impressive, but how willing is the Polish energy sector to make use of these technologies?
MC: It is natural for high value industries, regardless of the country they are conducting their business, to be on the conservative side, however, the mindsets are no doubt starting to change. The move towards renewable sources for instance has made industry players more open to new ideas, more willing to consider new technologies and innovations.
My take on this is that both new and old industry players should be supportive of this direction. And as a company we have taken the responsibility to educate and make this sector more open for modern technology adoption
How do you see Poland comparing to other countries in the region when it comes to technology adoption?
MC: If you consider the average amount of money invested in IT per capita, Poland is lagging behind compared to other countries in the region. Historically, the country has not been very quick to implementing holistic solutions. It is now the time for AI and big data and the economy is starting to adapt to this trend.
I believe the emphasis should be placed on educating people on the benefits of AI as to make the new generations more open for change and progress. A good example was in 2019 year, the Ministry of Energy launched a program called ‘My Energy’ which provided people with PLN 5000 for household solar energy installations. This program was well advertised, well managed and easy to handle and the outcome was amazing.
With a high level of connectivity come cyber security concerns - are they holding people back?
PK: There are concerns, of course, but the response should not be dismissing innovation. Implementing security measures is paramount, especially in a critical industry such as the energy sector, and companies should look at using highly secure enterprise software such as SAS platform.
Do you already have a sense of how the COVID-19 outbreak will be impact your business/the energy sector in the short term?
MC: COVID-19 epidemy has triggered rapid adoption of conducting business in the state of emergency in all industries. Utilities are at the front line of this battlefield. Energy supply must be unbroken. This has enforced utilities to apply emergency procedures in all energy producers and distribution companies.
MC: Keeping technical staff teams separated, using disaster recovery locations, working from distance. All these measures are enforcing using more intensively modern IT solutions.
The more malfunctions of distribution network devices can be predicted before they happen and managed remotely, the less technical teams must travel to fix them.
Extensive usage of Artificial Intelligence my lower down human effort in the field related to status of devices and transmission lines analysis. Ability to precisely forecast energy demand changes caused by industrial production limitations is also very important.
What first measures did SAS set in place to manage the crisis?
MC: SAS can help companies during this disruptive period, to maintain business continuity with insights from analytics. Retail is one of the industries that has been hit the hardest. Also, we have expertise that can help governments in contact tracing, which can help determine the persons an infected person has come in contact with, to identify potential infected or carriers. This is very important in putting the pandemic under control, while respecting all the data privacy regulations.
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