Making sure smart makes sense to everyone

Taking end users on a journey to a digital future.

Between now and 2020 around 50 million smart meters will be rolled out to homes and micro-businesses across the UK
Between now and 2020 around 50 million smart meters will be rolled out to homes and micro-businesses across the UK
  • Updated: 28 November 2016
  • Author: Sacha Deshmukh, Chief Executive Smart Energy GB

It was great to hear ICE’s 152nd President Professor Tim Broyd emphasise the potential of digital technology in his inaugural speech.

Few experts have done more to articulate the benefits of digitisation in infrastructure. His ‘Engineering a Digital Future’ speech showcased his ambition to ensure that digitised infrastructure improves people’s lives while making our economy more resilient and efficient.

As the voice of the smart meter rollout Smart Energy GB echoes his focus on the potential of digital transformation. I was really encouraged by his view that success of the digital future should be assessed on how it affects people’s lives.

This has been the focus of our campaign since the beginning.

Between now and 2020 around 50 million smart meters will be rolled out to homes and micro-businesses across the UK. As well as empowering consumers to get their gas and electricity under control, this transformational project will contribute to the development of a smart grid and the digitisation of the energy sector, which has until now remained stuck in the analogue era.

Enthusing the public about digital

However, energy and infrastructure in general are low interest categories among the public, as is awareness of the benefits brought about by digitally transformative projects such as those making our cities smarter.

For this reason our campaign has focused on raising awareness about the potential of smart meters in a language consumers understand.

Through award-winning engagement campaigns, including partnerships with trusted organisations, Smart Energy GB is successfully reaching people across the country with the information they need to choose smart meters.

More than four million smart meters are already installed and levels of understanding about the benefits of smart technology are growing.

We are always looking for innovative ways to engage consumers and part of this approach is to ensure ‘smart makes sense to everyone’. We are finding that focusing on the benefits of digitisation in a language people understand rather than the technology is an effective way to engage people.

But the lessons of clear communications that can be learned from the consumer arena apply equally to the policy-making space. Too often, simple but important principles when considering smart policy developments can be hidden behind a layer of policy gobbledegook.

Resilience, efficiency, affordability and liveability

To this end, we have designed a user-friendly tool enabling any policy-maker to engage in the smart policy debate. We call it the REAL ratio – an acronym based on four desired outcomes of any digitisation of a city or area where we live – Resilience, Efficiency, Affordability and Liveability.

The REAL ratio could be used by infrastructure developers and city authorities to better frame their projects and how they help achieve positive outcomes for local residents.

In the coming months we will be refining the REAL ratio with interested organisations and city authorities. I believe it has potential uses beyond the smart meter rollout to test specific infrastructure projects and to form the basis for better targeted ‘smart communications’.

As new sectors of infrastructure are digitised it will become ever more important to accompany this by smart communications to ensure consumers buy into the idea and feel they have a stake in their town or city’s overarching strategy and specific smart projects.

We all have a role to play in taking the end user, whether as consumers or citizens, on the journey towards the digital future. Professor Broyd’s inaugural speech powerfully reminds us of why this matters.

I look forward to collaborating with ICE and others to put the REAL ratio to use and contribute to ensuring popular support and awareness for the digital future is as broad as possible.