Edenor is making a US$10mn investment in smart meters as part of a plan that began in 2018. The company has already invested US$1 million and has installed over 3,000 of these meters, mostly for large clients in the industrial sector, and it plans to deploy another 50,000 more over the next five years.
Smart meters give the company data on the consumption behavior of clients and the state of services in real time, with the goal being to control 50% of its energy sales through these meters within the next five years.
This project is part of a deeper transformation of the company, and this year its non-electricity investments will be increased by a factor of three, making it the most aggressive year for investments in the last 10 years.
In 2019, Edenor has proposed three focuses for its work on the digital area: shifting from meters to customers, that is, knowing more about the people using electricity services, providing the network with greater intelligence and automation, and developing enablers (processes, methodologies and even the redesign of technological architecture) in order to achieve the first two objectives.
Luis Lenkiewicz, Edenor’s director of technology, information technology and telecommunications, talks to BNamericas about the main plans the company is carrying out to get into the cloud and the ways in which it is making its network management more efficient with technology.
BNamericas: What actions are you taking to achieve the company’s objectives?
Lenkiewicz: One important thing is the mobile application that we’ve developed for our clients, which we finished implementing in September 2019 and during 2020. With the pandemic, it had exponential growth, it helped us a lot. This was our own development. In reality, we bought software-as-a-service and customized it.
The other architectural work we did at that time was the replacement of the contact center. We had outdated technology and now we’re going to a next-generation center with the Avaya people. At that time, we still didn’t dare to go to the cloud with this project, but now we’re certainly thinking about that.
Last year was a year of somewhat foundational architecture changes. We also migrated SAP to the cloud with AWS.
BNamericas: In the case of the contact center, you said that at that time you weren’t keen on migrating to the cloud. What’s the company’s strategy in terms of cloud?
Lenkiewicz: Our policy is cloud first and cloud second, and only if there’s no other option, on-premise. This is also something that we raised in 2018-2019.
In the case of the contact center, what happened is that the purchase [of Avaya technology to upgrade the center] was in 2017 and at that time we didn’t have as much technical knowledge to go to the cloud. Now our strategy is aimed at the cloud and, in order of priorities, is software-as-a-service [SaaS], then platform-as-a-service [PaaS] and infrastructure-as-a-service [IaaS]. We prefer cloud-mounted applications to cloud as a structure.
BNamericas: Public cloud?
Lenkiewicz: Yes, we have no restrictions. Today the public cloud has provided us with greater benefits than the private cloud.
Now, this also creates challenges. The first is to gain knowledge. We had to incorporate knowledge to manage the clouds of Amazon, Microsoft or any other. And it was also a change for us to go from a capex model to an opex model. Now I can say that with the cloud there are greater economic benefits.
BNamericas: What other projects are you working on?
Lenkiewicz: One of the important projects in this journey of transformation is everything related to data and analytics. Last year we designed new big data and analytics architecture and started working with predictive models, machine learning and artificial intelligence.
This was a decision we made last year and this year we started to implement it. The main component is an Amazon component and then there are half a dozen vendors. It’s a project that will take a couple of years, but we hope to have a deliverable product at least every three months.
BNamericas: What kind of products?
Lenkiewicz: What we have today is a predictive model for failures in the medium voltage section that anticipates possible failures of a component such as a transformer or cable. This is already active and has a high level of accuracy, to the order of 80-85%.
We’re now implementing a similar model, but with high voltage components. We haven’t implemented it yet, but we’re already collecting the data to build the algorithm. This would avoid suffering outages that could affect hundreds of thousands of users.
On the other hand, we’re also thinking of a fraud prediction model, like scoring, which can determine the probability that a certain customer or area may have a case of fraud.
In all these cases, data quality is very important and that’s why we’re also incorporating data governance components into our new architecture.
BNamericas: Movistar recently announced IoT tests with Edenor. Could you expand on what projects they’re developing in IoT?
Lenkiewicz: Yes, we did several pilot tests. One is with a communications technology called LoRa. We had never implemented an IoT communications protocol and, then, what we did was assemble it in a group of clients to do what is called an energy balance; that is, we connected meters with this protocol and compared it with the energy that came out of the transformation centers. This allowed us to have an indicator of losses, which can be technical or non-technical.
That was the first pilot, but we’ll surely carry out further pilots with other protocols. It’s a path that we’re only now exploring as we work on an IoT strategy.
We’re not only connecting meters. In fact, now we have about 2,500 remote control points on the electrical network. This is done with traditional telecommunications protocols on Edenor’s own network. This allows us to control it remotely in the event of an electrical event. We have very good capillarity and we can reach the centers directly with our fiber optics.
We have roughly 17,000-18,000 transformation centers and we’re controlling about 2,500, which are the most critical because they supply a hospital or some type of user that requires a certain level of service. This year the goal is to add 500 more.
BNamericas: When do you think the IoT pilots you are doing will be commercially available on the network?
Lenkiewicz: We want to advance a little more and do a few more pilots this year to start the implementation process next year. We’re going to do a pilot in a neighborhood of 400 users with another communication protocol, which is Wi-SUN. The problem we have at present is that not all meter manufacturers make meters with modules for all communication models, so you have to find the combination.
BNamericas: Are all these tests with Movistar?
Lenkiewicz: We did something, but much smaller with Telecom, but we’re mostly working with Telefónica.
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