Jul 31, 2020

8.5mn UK households suffer internet problems during lockdown

quadient
telcos
Internet
Utilities
Jonathan Campion
4 min
8.5 million UK households suffer as internet problems disrupt work or personal life during lockdown, research reveals
Quadient urges broadband and mobile providers to focus on customer service as UK ranks connectivity as more essential than gas, banking or council servi...

By John Hoggard, Principal, Global Utilities & Telco at Quadient 

London, UK, 30th July 2020: 8.5 million UK households[1] suffered work, schooling or entertainment disruption, or were cut off from their families, thanks to internet connection problems during the Covid-19 lockdown, a survey commissioned by Quadient has revealed[2]. This disruption comes as the lockdown has made connectivity more important than ever – more than three fifths (61 percent) of respondents said they were using online services more during the Covid-19 pandemic.

This is reflected in how UK consumers view essential utilities and services. Respondents ranked broadband as the third most important service in their lives – only beaten by electricity and water, and comfortably ahead of council services, banking or even gas[3]. Time spent online may contribute to this: across both home and mobile connections, respondents spend an average of seven hours a day online.

“Internet access has arguably never been more important to UK consumers than during the Covid-19 lockdown. Despite gas heating more than 80 percent of UK homes[4], the research shows consumers would rather stream a movie than keep themselves warm,” said John Hoggard, Principal, Global Utilities & Telco, Quadient. “When a service is this important, providers must deal with any connection issues quickly and effectively – and the customer experience plays a key role. UK consumers will accept there are likely to be connectivity problems during these unprecedented times. However, telcos must meet them halfway: not only resolving the issue, but giving customers timely and personalised information, advice and support they need.”

Ultimately, if their expectations are not met, people are ready and willing to switch to another telco provider – especially as initiatives to make the process simpler such as Ofcom’s ‘Text-to-Switch’ service are removing any mental barriers many customers might have had. More than two fifths (42 percent) of respondents said they have either switched broadband provider in the last year, or are planning to, or wanted to do so but think it’s too difficult. At the same time, 81 percent are confident switching would be easy if they wanted to, or have experienced how easy it is.

Consumers are also clear on what providers should do. First, reliability – respondents rated providers’ ability to fix problems quickly higher than the range of services they have on offer, or how speedy their installation process is[5]. Second, meet providers’ own customer experience promises – a quarter of respondents said the quality of customer service from broadband providers doesn’t live up to what’s advertised. However, consumers are also open to new ways of improving the customer experience. More than two thirds of UK consumers would be open to using self-service tools to resolve issues.

Providers also need to be aware of consumers’ concerns, and act on them. 59 percent of mobile customers said providers are too busy pushing 5G as the next big thing, when they should instead focus attention and resources on customer service. Clear communications will be essential for providers looking to win their customers’ trust.

“While there is lots of hype around new services like 5G, telcos must make sure they don’t try to run before they can walk, and keep their customers connected when it matters the most,” John Hoggard added. “With many people still remaining at home, it’s likely the number of connection problems and customer support requests will remain high. Making sure obligations to existing customers are not overlooked while new services are developed, and giving consumers access to all the tools they need to provide prompt service and clear, timely communications, will be essential in retaining customer confidence and ensuring telcos can meet the expectations placed on them.”

To download the full report, visit https://www.quadient.com/en-GB/resources/telecoms-customer-experience-fit-purpose-time-of-covid-19

About Quadient 
Quadient is the driving force behind the world’s most meaningful customer experiences. By focusing on four key solution areas including Customer Experience Management, Business Process Automation, Mail-Related Solutions, and Parcel Locker Solutions, Quadient helps simplify the connection between people and what matters. Quadient supports hundreds of thousands of customers worldwide in their quest to create relevant, personalized connections and achieve customer experience excellence. Quadient is listed in compartment B of Euronext Paris (QDT) and is part of the CAC® Mid & Small index. For more information about Quadient, visit quadient.com.  

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[1] 93 percent of the UK’s 27.8 million households had access to the internet in 2019 – a total of 25.9 million.

33 percent of respondents that had an internet connection reported an internet issue during lockdown – representing 8.5 million of the 25.9 million UK households with access to the internet

[1] Survey of 2,000 UK adults carried out by Opinium Research in June 2020

[1] See APPENDIX, chart 1

[1] According to BEIS research, 2019

[1] See APPENDIX, chart 2

[1] 93 percent of the UK’s 27.8 million households had access to the internet in 2019 – a total of 25.9 million.

33 percent of respondents that had an internet connection reported an internet issue during lockdown – representing 8.5 million of the 25.9 million UK households with access to the internet

[2] Survey of 2,000 UK adults carried out by Opinium Research in June 2020

[3] See APPENDIX, chart 1

[4] According to BEIS research, 2019

[5] See APPENDIX, chart 2

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Jun 12, 2021

Why Transmission & Distribution Utilities Need Digital Twins

digitaltwins
Technology
Utilities
Management
Petri Rauhakallio
6 min
Petri Rauhakallio at Sharper Shape outlines the Digital Twins benefits for energy transmission and distribution utilities

As with any new technology, Digital twins can create as many questions as answers. There can be a natural resistance, especially among senior utility executives who are used to the old ways and need a compelling case to invest in new ones. 

So is digital twin just a fancy name for modelling? And why do many senior leaders and engineers at power transmission & distribution (T&D) companies have a gnawing feeling they should have one? Ultimately it comes down to one key question: is this a trend worth our time and money?

The short answer is yes, if approached intelligently and accounting for utilities’ specific needs. This is no case of runaway hype or an overwrought name for an underwhelming development – digital twin technology can be genuinely transformational if done right. So here are six reasons why in five years no T&D utility will want to be without a digital twin. 

1. Smarter Asset Planning

A digital twin is a real-time digital counterpart of a utility’s real-world grid. A proper digital twin – and not just a static 3D model of some adjacent assets – represents the grid in as much detail as possible, is updated in real-time and can be used to model ‘what if’ scenarios to gauge the effects in real life. It is the repository in which to collect and index all network data, from images, to 3D pointclouds, to past reports and analyses.

With that in mind, an obvious use-case for a digital twin is planning upgrades and expansions. For example, if a developer wants to connect a major solar generation asset, what effect might that have on the grid assets, and will they need upgrading or reinforcement? A seasoned engineer can offer an educated prediction if they are familiar with the local assets, their age and their condition – but with a digital twin they can simply model the scenario on the digital twin and find out.

The decision is more likely to be the right one, the utility is less likely to be blindsided by unforeseen complications, and less time and money need be spent visiting the site and validating information.

As the energy transition accelerates, both transmission and distribution (T&D) utilities will receive more connection requests for anything from solar parks to electric vehicle charging infrastructure, to heat pumps and batteries – and all this on top of normal grid upgrade programs. A well-constructed digital twin may come to be an essential tool to keep up with the pace of change.

2. Improved Inspection and Maintenance

Utilities spend enormous amounts of time and money on asset inspection and maintenance – they have to in order to meet their operational and safety responsibilities. In order to make the task more manageable, most utilities try to prioritise the most critical or fragile parts of the network for inspection, based on past inspection data and engineers’ experience. Many are investigating how to better collect, store and analyze data in order to hone this process, with the ultimate goal of predicting where inspections and maintenance are going to be needed before problems arise.  

The digital twin is the platform that contextualises this information. Data is tagged to assets in the model, analytics and AI algorithms are applied and suggested interventions are automatically flagged to the human user, who can understand what and where the problem is thanks to the twin. As new data is collected over time, the process only becomes more effective.

3. More Efficient Vegetation Management

Utilities – especially transmission utilities in areas of high wildfire-risk – are in a constant struggle with nature to keep vegetation in-check that surrounds power lines and other assets. Failure risks outages, damage to assets and even a fire threat. A comprehensive digital twin won’t just incorporate the grid assets – a network of powerlines and pylons isolated on an otherwise blank screen – but the immediate surroundings too. This means local houses, roads, waterways and trees. 

If the twin is enriched with vegetation data on factors such as the species, growth rate and health of a tree, then the utility can use it to assess the risk from any given twig or branch neighbouring one of its assets, and prioritise and dispatch vegetation management crews accordingly. 

And with expansion planning, inspection and maintenance, the value here is less labor-intensive and more cost-effective decision making and planning – essential in an industry of tight margins and constrained resources. What’s more, the value only rises over time as feedback allows the utility to finesse the program.

4. Automated powerline inspection

Remember though, that to be maximally useful, a digital twin must be kept up to date. A larger utility might blanche at the resources required to not just to map and inspect the network once in order to build the twin, but update that twin at regular intervals.

However, digital twins are also an enabling technology for another technological step-change – automated powerline inspection.

Imagine a fleet of sensor-equipped drones empowered to fly the lines almost constantly, returning (automatically) only to recharge their batteries. Not only would such a set-up be far cheaper to operate than a comparable fleet of human inspectors, it could provide far more detail at far more regular intervals, facilitating all the above benefits of better planning, inspection, maintenance and vegetation management. Human inspectors could be reserved for non-routine interventions that really require their hard-earned expertise.

In this scenario, the digital twin provides he ‘map’ by which the drone can plan a route and navigate itself, in conjunction with its sensors. 

5. Improved Emergency Modelling and Faster Response

If the worst happens and emergency strikes, such as a wildfire or natural disaster, digital twins can again prove invaluable. The intricate, detailed understanding of the grid, assets and its surroundings that a digital twin gives is an element of order in a chaotic situation, and can guide the utility and emergency services alike in mounting an informed response.

And once again, the digital twin’s facility for ‘what-if’ scenario testing is especially useful for emergency preparedness. If a hurricane strikes at point X, what will be the effect on assets at point Y? If a downed pylon sparks a fire at point A, what residences are nearby and what does an evacuation plan look like?

6. Easier accommodation of external stakeholders

Finally, a digital twin can make lighter work of engaging with external stakeholders. The world doesn’t stand still, and a once blissfully-isolated powerline may suddenly find itself adjacent to a building site for a new building or road. 

As well as planning for connection (see point 1), a digital twin takes the pain out of those processes that require interfacing with external stakeholders, such as maintenance contractors, arborists, trimming crews or local government agencies – the digital twin breaks down the silos between these groups and allows them to work from a single version of the truth – in future it could even be used as part of the bid process for contractors.

These six reasons for why digital twins will be indispensable to power T&D utilities are only the tip of the iceberg; the possibilities are endless given the constant advancement of data collection an analysis technology. No doubt these will invite even more questions – and we relish the challenge of answering them. 

 

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