What was once traditionally a monopoly business – Energy & Utility – has now swerved into a path of change. Since the early 2000s, the industry has surged ahead faster than its advancement in the previous century. The unbundling across the whole value chain from Generation, Transmission, Distribution, and Retail began paving a new path for the industry.
Presently, Utility companies are facing the most accelerated pace of industry changes and innovation that they have ever faced. New trends like Distributed Energy Resources, Electricity Storage or Micro-Grids, illustrates the complexity that Utility companies need to manage these days, wherein the primal advents of this complexity are flexibility and operational efficiency. To tackle with this complexity, Utilities need to be much more flexible to manage the new mix of energy sources in the transmission and distribution network, thereby enabling reaction to more demanding customers and improve their overall operations.
Boasting ample knowledge about the industry landscape and its implications, Choice Technologies is one of the leading organizations in the Utility space across the globe. The Brazil born company particularly focuses on designing an analytic platform that help Utilities recover eroded revenues from Non-Technical Losses, while maintaining or even reducing operational costs.
The Inception of Something Colossal
Back when the industry was primarily focused on upgrading old and legacy Customer Information Systems or adopting the best breed of ERPs, the thought of using advanced analytical platforms was quite innovative and topics centered-around AI and Machine Learning were a mirage for most companies, even in mature industries like Telcos or Financial Services.
These were the times, when Smart Metering and Smart Grids were just taking baby steps in terms of industry adoption; illustrating that the idea of Choice’s founders was indeed a game-changer at that moment. The advancing years confirmed that they were right about the dramatic change in the industry, in particular, thinking about the conjunction between industry advents of Renewable Energy, Storage, Market Unbundling or Micro Grids together with IT trends around Big Data.
An Industry Veteran Leading the Way in Bringing Forward Innovation
One of the key success factors when addressing the market, moreover for start-up companies, is the significance of executive leadership and particularly the guidance and strategic planning of the CEO. Denis Maia, Founder and CEO of Choice Technologies, is the leader who shouldered the responsibility of implementing and executing the business plans to spearhead the company to where it is today.
While keeping the focus on the added value Choice provides, Denis continuously looks to design new and innovative solutions and ensures optimum participation by asking the executive leadership team to contribute with new ideas. Being a focused, innovative and value driven leader, Denis handles more than the decision-making phase; he promotes teamwork to solve the problems and challenges that the industry is facing. With over 20 years of extensive industry experience, the visionary leader is always one-step ahead of the unexpected challenges hovering over the company.
Delivering Unrivaled Value to its Customers
Choice Technologies unleashes a huge value to its customers, as it helps increase their revenue and improve their business processes. Starting from the solution itself, it has a SaaS business model that dramatically reduces their upfront investments while accelerating the deployment.
“Looking more from a customer’s perspective we contribute for an average growth of USD $40M annually, with growth percentages higher than 100% per year and a total electricity recover of more than USD 1B for our total customer base across all these years. We really think that there is no one with similar results and experience like us,” exclaims Denis.
Turning Challenges into Stepping Stones
As with any other company, the journey for Choice hasn’t been a bed of roses. One of the major challenges that Choice faced since the launch of its first project is the long sales cycle that Utilities traditionally has. The other challenge was the level of maturity of emerging markets. Add to that, the third challenge revolved around data quality and biased data, one which is very hard to solve on every project.
To cope with the first, Choice recently launched a new version of its platform that is more modular and flexible by being more cost-effective, thereby reducing the deployment timeline and the sales cycle. Concerning the second, the company has begun engaging with customers with a training service, guiding them on the best strategy to put in place to structure their business processes. Lastly, the latter is something which is different on every other project and requires time to be solved. One of the activities that Choice consistently performs is data cleansing, as and when inaccuracies are identified. The other differentiator that helps solve these problems is Machine Learning engine, which as the name suggests refers to ‘learning with experience.’ This technique enables the company to reduce the impact of biased data, even though this might be more resilient than others with time.
Rising above the Competition
Most companies these days, mainly US based, which has developed analytical platforms for Utilities are focusing on a broader set of use cases around Demand Side Management, Demand Response, Transformer Load Management, Substation Automation, and others. But there are only a few among the vast software providers that are laying focus on this niche segment, to help Utilities reduce Non-Technical Losses.
“The first take the most value of Smart Meter rollouts and Smart Grid initiatives but almost don’t extract any value out of conventional and pre-paid meters. That’s one area where we differentiate ourselves from the others. We born working with monthly meter reading data that comes from conventional meters, our customers provide services to more than 100 million people and we provide more than USD 40M annually to them in lost revenues. Alongside these, we have experience with Smart Meter as well,” points out Denis.
All these are one among the many reasons why Choice Technologies was named as “The leading vendor in pure play analytics focusing on revenue assurance for Utilities” by the Northeast Group.
“…because we have proven results, we are competing with the biggest software giants in some leading Utility companies worldwide,” Denis adds to his point.
Sailing Ahead of the Waves of New Technologies
If you’re cruising ahead, and technology changes the path, it is imperative for you to adapt to the changes. With a similar mindset of keeping pace with new technologies that adds value to its customer base, ease the integration with the different source systems and helps them improve the results, Choice continuously tests new Artificial Intelligence technologies. Choice possesses a dedicated and proficient R&D team, which works side-by-side with university bodies on this field of experience.
Contributing to Make the Industry Better
When asked about the industry scenario, Denis asserts, “These days, particularly in our industry and field of expertise – Non-Technical Losses – Latin America is the most mature market worldwide, because Utilities in that region recognize that this is a hot topic for them, namely in Countries like Brazil, Colombia or Mexico. Regarding the other regions, in one hand Europe, North America and Australia/New Zealand Utilities tend to diminish the value of Non-Technical Losses based on the maturity, education and social conscience of the end-customers, which is more often than not a wrong perception; on the other hand, Africa and Asia utilities still face big challenges, in particular around the need to have a structured business process in place, with only a few exceptions where field inspections are being made.”
This is one of the reasons why Choice structured its offerings. Firstly, to be able to provide educational consultancy service to help establish and structure the business processes. Secondly, to provide them with a software analytical platform that helps them excel when executing those business processes. And, lastly, helping them excel when using its platform with a post go-live consultancy service, where the best practices are shared and industry knowledge is transferred.
A Future Filled with Continued Innovation
Choice’s new platform has a modular platform, made of different applications that add value per se; as much as they work together, better the results a company achieves. The growth strategy of Choice stems from its already available apps that represent its experience in the market. Its roadmap for the coming year includes additional apps and a marketplace, where inclusively the partners can develop and sell their own applications.
The company also has experience through its deployment of more than 30 projects across different countries, ranging from electric, water, and gas utilities. Additionally, Choice has a knowledge base to share the best practices with the customers, the intelligence center team that empowers these activities, and all the technology from Machine Learning, AI, risk rating, and financial impact that allow utilities to prioritize field inspections. Lastly, the company is agnostic to meter types, sensor, and corporate systems like Billing, MDM, GIS, or any other.
“We can work with anyone, to leverage the investments that Utilities have already done,” Denis concludes.