SAP uses TIFF 2017 to spark a conversation about the future of electricity

utilities
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All eyes may be on the movie stars promoting their work at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) this month, but SAP is using some of the event’s premieres to stimulate thinking around enterprise-oriented topics like the Internet of Things and big data.

The software giant has sponsored a series of TIFF movies, which it has called “Our Digital Future,” which will serve as an opening act of sorts to its Our Digital Summit, which is being livestreamed on Sept. 14. Among of the galas included in the series is The Current War, a historical drama that tells the story of how Thomas Edison (played by Benedict Cumberbatch) and George Westinghouse (Tom Holland) compete to create a sustainable electrical system and market it to the American people.

Cathy Tough, national lead for the utilities sector at SAP Canada, told B2B News Network that some of the film’s themes aren’t that far removed from what’s happening in the electricity sector today. The biggest difference, she suggested, may be in the role consumers play in what was once strictly a B2B environment.

“The utilities used to be focused on the assets more than people that they served,” she said, observing that the most meaningful relationship many firms had with what they primarily referred to as “ratepayers” was going to to read a meter. “Consumers are starting to have a choice. Today the pace of change is huge but it’s opening up opportunities for non-traditional players to play a role in what used to be a closed system, or a natural monopoly.”

Already, for example, there are consumes who are creating “micro grids” in their neighbourhoods and selling electricity to each other using Blockchain, Tough said. That’s forcing utilities firms to focus less on merely getting into the market — as Edison and Westinghouse are in The Current War — and figuring out how they can use the Internet of Things (IoT) and automation to provide greater value to customers.

“Every utility I’m working with across the country is struggling or challenged with, ‘How do I redefine my business model and find new opportunities for revenue using technology?’,” Tough said.

Some of what utilities are pursuing include using the IoT for predictive maintenance to get more life out of an asset, or using real-time data exchange to reduce the costs of replacements.

Tough said SAP’s sponsorship of the Our Digital Future series will reinforce the company’s position in the Canadian market, where it has 13,500 customers.

“We have a very broad view on a global basis of what’s happening in the industry,” she said. “I think that those that work with us are well aware we cover the entire value chain.”

Other TIFF movies in the series include Downsizing with Matt Damon, Roadside Attraction and Dragonfly Eyes.

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Shane Schick

Shane Schick

Shane Schick tells stories that help people innovate, and to manage the change innovation brings. He is the former Editor-in-Chief of Marketing magazine and has also been Vice-President, Content & Community (Editor-in-Chief), at IT World Canada, a technology columnist with the Globe and Mail and Yahoo Canada and is the founding editor of ITBusiness.ca. Shane has been recognized for journalistic excellence by the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance and the Canadian Online Publishing Awards.