In my previous blog, I looked back at how the role of data has changed the world of asset management in the last 10 years. But what about the next 10 years?

While the data revolution in wind has been significant, I think the successful search for “more data” and of the systems that support it – particularly the analytical and visualisation solutions – has shown us something important. It has shown us that data by itself – and here we are talking mostly about the operational data we get from SCADA and CMS – is not the full answer. There is undoubted value to be had in detailed analytics, but the bigger prize is in using this in a more holistic way across all the systems and people that make up the full asset management cohort.

Through the 2020s “integration” and “efficiency” will be the key words in terms of site and portfolio level technology. And for the industry as a whole I would add “sharing” to that list.

Sophisticated analysis will continue to develop, but there will be more emphasis on how the output from clever predictive algorithms finds its way to the techs on the ground and the ERP systems in the cloud. More effort will be spent ensuring technicians are brought fully into the digital embrace. Their remote devices will support all the key functions and data access that an office desktop would. The apps they use will be focussed on getting them the right data at the right time (and for the right job). And, crucially, will ensure that they capture the right data in the right way in order to make future analytics more accurate and useful.

We are recognising that almost every advanced analysis we do requires a level of manual interpretation or classification which is both more efficiently and accurately achieved by technicians while on-site. More accurate prediction systems will provide the confidence for increased automation of logistics for major part replacements and repair work. Algorithms will balance risk, lead times, storage options and cost forecasts to provide optimised spares management solutions. Such systems will help close the loop between the site, engineering and back office departments – and in doing so promote better communications and company structures which itself is a key area to ensuring we realise the full potential of digitalisation. Ultimately, everything still comes down to how we as humans integrate and communicate. Software systems are often seen as “solutions”, but I think they are more helpfully viewed as “enablers”.

I also expect to see an increase in data sharing over the next decade. As alluded to in my previous blog, there has been a level of protectionism regarding the ownership of data in our industry which has been a significant barrier to any form of sharing. The reluctance to share is typically associated with perceived threats to intellectual property (IP) or lack of control over the publication of poorly performing assets. My personal view is that we need to respect these fears as they are not without foundation. I expect the industry will soon find appropriate technical solutions for data sharing platforms that protect IP and ensure anonymity yet still provide the ability for direct solution partnering and more general industry-wide benchmarking. The first successful benchmarking schemes are already in existence – technology will further socialise this area in the years to come.

Graham Gow