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The digital utility opportunity

As utilities around the world start adopting a more data-driven approach, Malta is positioning itself as a partner for digital innovators promising new product and management tools.

 

Digital transformation is on the top of Malta’s development agenda, and the utility sector is no exception. The emergence of advanced technologies, and the rise of ‘prosumers’ who both consume and produce energy, are changing the relationship between utilities and their customers. Malta’s utility billing company is proactively thinking about its evolving role, opening up numerous opportunities for forward-thinking IT and tech firms to help them adjust to this new reality.

A New Utility Business Model

While in many countries the utilities sector has historically underinvested in IT, Malta realised early on that it needs to embrace game-changing trends and innovation. The island was one of the first countries that saw the nationwide roll-out of smart meters when it partnered with computing giant IBM to replace old analogue electric metres. The project started in 2009, and in the same year the island’s utility management and billing company ARMS – which is short for Automated Revenue Management Services – was established. The private company is a joint venture between Enemalta PLC, Malta’s main electricity generation and distribution company, and the island’s national water utility, the Water Services Corporation (WSC). Driven by the desire to increase operational efficiencies, ARMS was set up to handle the customer care and billing functions on behalf of both corporations. ARMS was also charged with the task of coordinating the transition to smart meters. In common with other big tech projects elsewhere in the world, all has not quite gone to plan and implementation took longer than expected. However, some 90% of Maltese households are today equipped with smart devices that enable ARMS to carry out automated reading and give consumers the ability to monitor their personal usage as well as adjust consumption when waste or inefficiencies are identified.

 


Data as Key Asset

Investment in, and the application of, new digital technologies are also changing the way ARMS communicates and interacts with its customers. Its web portal www.smartutilities.com.mt allows customers to manage their accounts online, while new tools are being deployed to cut waiting times and fasten service times. The ability to analyse data means ARMS has more and better information, which they can use to address and improve core systems and processes. Data analytics is also being seen as shaping the future of the company. ARMS is aware that it can gain a lot more from exchanges of information and partnerships with all kinds of players.

The development of new applications, products and services based on energy demand and consumption patterns can create significant value for both utility companies and their customers. As concepts such as the Internet of Things and smart homes are gaining more traction with customers, utility players are keen on exploring solutions taking into account new and future forms of generation and storage, as well as billing and payment. In this climate, the Maltese authorities are promoting the country as an ideal research and innovation test bed, and its utility management company offers tech entrepreneurs a space to develop innovative products and tools before taking them to the market.

 

“The satisfaction rate of our customers has increased substantially in recent years. We are constantly trying to improve the services we give and are interested in new digital solutions that can help optimise and transform existing processes and business models.”

- David Magro, CEO of ARMS

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