September 11, 2008
Automation is a top priority at energy and utility companies. In fact, 76% of them are using IT to up business process efficiency.
Pacific Gas & Electric, for one, is automating various processes to improve customer service. PG&E's SmartMeter and Smart Grid programs use radio frequency mesh--a data communication and collection technology--to monitor over 120,000 miles of electric lines for problems and to provide customers with rate plans that give them incentives to use energy during off-peak times.
Each RF mesh device is a wireless network repeater, similar to what people have in their offices, says Eugene Park, PG&E's senior director of application services. You blanket a territory, attaching the devices to stationary or mobile objects. When the devices see each other, they pass information upstream or downstream.
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Similarly, enriched uranium supplier USEC wants to automate business processes to optimize efficiency. It's particularly looking at software-as-a-service offerings that are a "great fit for business processes that are self-contained" such as some HR processes, and that don't require a lot of integration with other applications, legacy systems, or business processes, says CIO David Vordick. If USEC moves to SaaS, it will have plenty of company. Fifty-nine percent of companies in the sector say they use Web-only apps.
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