Centrica supplies energy and energy-related services to around 28 million customer accounts mainly in the UK, Ireland and North America through brands such as British Gas, Direct Energy and Bord Gáis Energy, supported by around 12,000 engineers and technicians. With revenues of £28 billion, Centrica is a FTSE 50 company based in Windsor, UK and is concentrating its growth efforts in five key areas – Energy Supply, Services, the Connected Home, Distributed Energy & Power and Energy Marketing & Trading. It has 39,000 employees worldwide.
Prompted by the increased focus on the use of data and customer satisfaction, Centrica evaluated its mission critical infrastructure with a view to improve business processes and completely re-think how energy services were delivered to customers. Its overall objectives included reducing costs, improving data accuracy with smart metering, changing the way its engineers operated and interacted with customers daily and overall, putting every customer at the heart of the business. Centrica needed a consolidated IT infrastructure. The developer team was faced with the challenge of innovating the current infrastructure in order to help drive the change Centrica knew was needed to best serve the business and its customers.
The need for a consolidated IT infrastructure led to the creation of a data lake. The team realized the potential Hadoop could offer very quickly. Today, Centrica’s data lake can offer storage capacity up to 4 petabytes of useable storage. Big data technologies have had a tremendous impact on the way Centrica is handling both internal and external processes. Specifically, the introduction of Hortonworks Data Platform (HDP) and Hortonworks DataFlow (now Cloudera DataFlow—CDF) have reshaped the way datasets are analyzed in order to gain valuable insights which has paved the way for new products and services based on data analysis.
Hortonworks Connected Data Platform with HDP and Hortonworks DataFlow has enabled Centrica to address key data quality issues, such as incorrect billing and energy consumption levels. Centrica has deployed 2.9 million smart meters allowing household consumption to be monitored in real time, as well as giving the opportunity for customers to tailor services to their needs. This has given Centrica visibility into usage patterns and the status of installs from a geographical point of view.
By decommissioning its legacy data warehouses and databases, the company has been able to gain an unprecedented level of insight into energy consumption via smart metering, billing, but also customer service experience and the way engineers can work in a smarter and more efficient way. Centrica has also been able to create several mobile applications that harness the value of the company’s datasets, in order to provide a personalized customer service, increase safety in the workplace and a smarter way of calculating insurance policies. Big data technologies have had a tremendous impact on the way Centrica is handling both internal and external processes.
By aggregating the data and analyzing it, the team has been able to provide very accurate smart energy reports. As a result, customers have been able to gain a better understanding of their energy usage, by looking at consumption peaks and time of the day, with an accurate representation of how their money is spent. Considering the energy industry has always relied on estimates to operate, the introduction of smart metering based on data analysis has reshaped the way Centrica has been able to monitor energy usage and issue accurate bills, rather than rely on estimates. Data can be easily collected, sorted and analyzed every 30 minutes for the most reliable and accurate reporting.