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On Thursday, New Jersey’s oldest and largest gas and electricity provider, Public Service Electric & Gas (PSE&G), a subsidiary of listed utility PSEG, received approval from the state’s Board of Public Utilities to invest nearly $700 million over the next four years to provide 2.3 million statewide electric customers with cloud-enabled smart meters. According to an announcement from PSE&G, the decision clears the way for the largest installation of smart meter technology in New Jersey history.

The investments will power the buildout of PSE&G’s Energy Cloud, a cloud-based smart metering infrastructure program. By connecting customers directly with the utility, Energy Cloud will enable automatic, near real-time meter reading and outage detection, relieving customers of the need to self-report service disruptions, supporting quicker dispatch of power restoration crews, and giving customers better visibility into energy usage.

“A smart meter network is essential to PSEG’s Powering Progress vision for a future in which we help our customers use less energy; ensure that the energy they do use is cleaner; and deliver that energy more reliably than ever,” PSE&G President Dave Daly said.

PSE&G says better communications as a result of smart metering will lead to fewer truck dispatches and achieve other efficiencies that could reduce the company’s total carbon dioxide emissions by about 2,800 metric tons per year. This aligns with New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy’s Executive Order 28, which created an Energy Master Plan for the strategic distribution, consumption and conservation of energy across the state between now and 2050.

News of the data-driven utility rollout may portend another year of banner investments in smart meters, a market expected by some forecasts to reach $20 billion in global revenues by 2030.

Watson in utilities

“We are seeing the energy and utilities industry accelerating its cloud adoption, particularly to improve communication, function and accessibility to meet the demands of increasingly digitally-native consumers,” said Evaristus Mainsah, General Manager of the Hybrid Cloud and Edge Ecosystem at tech giant IBM, which on Thursday announced a new partnership with software consultancy Avertra that to accelerate digital client services in the energy and utilities industry.

Under the collaboration, Avertra’s MiCustomer Digital Experience platform, which allows clients to manage utility services from meter reading to bill playing, will be hosted on the IBM cloud. MiCustomer is also based on real-time applications that allows utility customers to track energy usage, use predictive analytics to forecast energy consumption, and gain more granular intelligence on their overall utility spend.

IBM’s data analytics capabilities—particularly in weather forecasting—are already being leveraged to great effect in the energy and utilities industry. Case studies from IBM reveal that one client, an unnamed power-generation utility, has reduced its planned overhauls by 5 percent and eliminated 5 percent of forced outages using IBM predictive analytics, saving $4.6 million each year, while yet another electric and water utility client achieved 25 percent in inventory reduction and cut $33 million in costs.

FKA WatrHub…

Besides the rollout and ramp-up of AI-powered initiatives from public utilities and tech companies, there’s movement in the private markets as well. On Thursday, Toronto water data cruncher WatrHub Inc., a venture capital-funded provider of early-stage intelligence on water infrastructure that gives utilities competitive visibility into municipal water requirements as they prepare project pitches, announced that it is expanding into the broader North American public infrastructure industry. In line with the move, the company is rebranding itself as Citylitics.

Founded in 2012, the company says it has the largest and fastest growing data platform on North American infrastructure, crunching data from more than 1 billion public documents from over 31,000 cities and utilities in the U.S. & Canada. This raw data is triangulated with government data sources, and refreshed every two weeks.

The company has grown organically as well as through acquisition, having bought online water industry marketplace SplashLink for an undisclosed amount in 2019. Per Crunchbase data on WatrHub/Citylitics’ most recent funding round in 2020, investors include Canadian venture capital investors Freycinet Ventures and GCI.

Newly minted as Citylitics, the WatrHub data platform will be used to provide predictive intelligence for industries including public transportation, roads and highways, power, gas, healthcare, and waste management.

“We believe infrastructure investments will play a pivotal role in North America’s economic restart in 2021 and onwards,” said Citylitics CEO Ahmed Badruddin. “The challenge for the industry is tracking and predicting where, when, and how these infrastructure investments will be made, and that is where Citylitics steps in.

As for total addressable market, Citylitics predicts the U.S. alone will need to invest $4.5 trillion over the next 5 years for infrastructure upgrades to water, energy, public roads, transportation, exporters and more.

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