Live from Broadband & Beyond 2011 Part 3 – Powering cities

First up in the third session was Ben Hamilton, head of corporate strategy and communications at Country Energy. He talked about how electricity networks are getting faster as they are overlaid with a telecommunications layer, and how ever point in his company’s value change is changing as a result of the data that now moves through it. The concept of giving customers access to information has already been proven to change their behaviour, but requires home-area networking and smart meters. Customers will switch their load when they know the best times to buy electricity.

“We are on the cusp of a huge change, but we can ony plan for the known knowns at the moment,” Hamilton said.

Next up was Paul King, smart grid industry consultant at Logica, who spoke about the change of the role of the consumer in the energy ecosystem, the role of data in driving that change, and the emergence of specialist business models in the energy industry. While energy consumption has been passive, we are moving towards being able to be informed consumers, with consumer intimacy being a key to achieving a better energy future. He also cited the example of UK-based Tesco, which went from being a retail grocery company to becoming an energy retail company selling solar installation, gas, electricity and heat pumps.

“If was an enegy rtailer in Australia I would be very scared of this trend,” King said, adding that new entrants were not hindered by legacy customer management systems.

The third speaker was George Margelis, general manager of Care Innovations (who is also quoted in A Faster Future), who talked about the limiting factor in the growth of communities being access to services.  He talked about how healthcare is all about communication, and that where people want their healthcare to be delivered is very different to where it is delivered today.

“What they want is services delivered in their communities, in their homes,” Margelis said. What we need is a model of care that is connected, where patients work with their care team, and that is flexible and can be delivered remotely out to where the patient is.