Energy systems will be undergoing enormous changes in the coming years, and the Finnish company Voimatel operates at the centre of this evolution. A modern cloud-based data platform that improves management efficiency and functions as a basis for new kinds of solutions was built for the company. The development of smart forecasting models and new business activities was launched using Digia’s Fast Track operational model.
The world is experiencing a rapid transition to renewable energy, the production of which fluctuates significantly. Additionally, customers themselves are increasingly becoming energy producers who take part in mechanisms such as demand response.
“Because of factors like this, the energy system must become extremely dynamic, flexible and smart,” says Harri Smolander, Business Development Manager at Voimatel.
With approximately 900 employees, Voimatel designs, builds and develops energy systems and electricity and telecommunications networks in Finland and the Baltic countries. The company has started developing new smart solutions together with Digia. Work began with an overhaul of reporting solutions. Digia also built Voimatel a modern data platform, which serves the development needs of data analytics, forecasting and AI in addition to the company’s current needs.
With the introduction of the data platform, all business units can now better develop knowledge-based management. Digia has highly developed expertise in technology and analytics, which is supremely important. But, beyond that, they also have the courage to develop new things.
Harri Smolander, Business Development Manager, Voimatel
What we used
- Microsoft Power BI
- Microsoft Azure
- K4 Analytics
- open-source analytics tools
A solid foundation for analytics, reporting and AI was constructed in the cloud
Voimatel previously had a reporting solution in use. However, it was approaching the end of its useful lifespan, and the system did not contain certain solutions, such as a data warehouse. ICT Development Manager Arto Nyyssönen explains that a clear need for new reporting functionalities, such as solutions for the management of finances and job orders, was beginning to appear on the business side.
Voimatel also wanted to develop opportunities to leverage data analytics, AI and IoT solutions. The company wanted to create a data platform that would allow for the utilisation of new technologies and the development of new business activities. The third goal was to have the partner take a larger role than before in the further development of the system.
Nyyssönen explains that the solution offered by Digia stood out among the other offers. In addition to immediate concerns, it also looked to the future and took business development needs into account.
Voimatel and Digia had collaborated in the past to develop of a mobile application and integrations.
“We already had the view that working with Digia is easy, you can trust what they tell you and things will progress smoothly,” Nyyssönen says.
The project was launched in March 2020 and progressed quickly.
“Digia had described the project accurately. Its contents did not expand significantly, and, right from the start, there was a clear vision of what the project entailed. Because of this, it was completed within the agreed specifications,” Nyyssönen says.
The construction of a modern and cloud-based data platform for Voimatel was commenced, which would utilise Microsoft Azure cloud technology and the innovative Snowflake data warehouse.
The data platform was constructed in layers. Raw data is first collected in its data warehouse from internal and external sources. The data is then edited in a controlled way in the different layers of the system. This creates a good basis for reporting and processes such as data analytics. Once the data has been effectively modelled, it is significantly easier to combine and process than data compiled from isolated sources.
The data platform has been designed so as to allow it to be used in very different applications with varying technical requirements. Solutions can also utilise the ever-increasing toolsets of Azure and Snowflake in order to, for example, make use of AI. Flexibility that allows for the efficient processing of large amounts of data has also been built into the data platform. Nyyssönen comments that Voimatel has even received praise for the modern implementation of the data platform from external sources.
Reporting utilises Microsoft’s Power BI solutions. Additionally, the modern K4 Analytics solution is used to enter data, which improves the efficiency of business and financial management and the maintenance of Voimatel’s project portfolio.
“The solutions increase the visibility of our business activities and their forecasting and make budgeting easier,” Nyyssönen says. K4 Analytics makes the process of entering data systematic and contains features such as a useful history view that displays changes to financial information and forecasts.
The system also utilises modern IaaC (Infrastructure as a Code) technology. For example, thanks to IaaC, test and development environments can be transferred to production with just a few clicks. Nyyssönen explains that this sort of DevOps thinking significantly eases the deployment of development subjects and reduces errors.
The first part of the project was completed in autumn 2020.
“We stayed on schedule, and the project progressed smoothly in general. The project plan was well thought out, and we were able to work through it without any major problems. The collaboration went swimmingly,” Nyyssönen says with satisfaction.
The Fast Track project began developing AI-based forecasting
Forecasting based on AI and analytics will be increasingly important to energy producers going forward and will also allow for the creation of new services for customers. Because of this, at the project’s planning stage, Voimatel had already decided to implement the Fast Track project with Digia, commencing the development of production and consumption forecasting. The project was also intended to test the implemented data platform and ensure that it was suitable for Voimatel’s planned future use.
Digia’s Fast Track development method allows the entire project to be completed over the course of only a few working days. This allows for new ideas and development directions to be tested quickly and without large investments.
“It’s great that we had a quick procedure like this available to develop new things. Digia had a structural model for the completion of the project, and we were able to quickly get to the implementation phase after shared discussions and brainstorming,” Smolander explains.
The test subject for Fast Track was Voimatel’s own office building. For the purposes of the forecast, data was collected about the office building’s energy consumption and the production of its solar power system. To complement this, data regarding the strength of solar radiation and air temperature was sought from the Finnish Meteorological Institute. Collaboratively, we developed a data model to forecast the production of the solar power system and the consumption of the office building.
Smolander is satisfied with the results of the development project. Even with limited data, the forecast model proved to be functional. If, for example, the model is complemented with weather forecasts, it will likely be able to achieve quite accurate production and consumption forecasting. Smolander explains that the completed development work is part of the development of Voimatel’s energy management service concept, which has taken important steps forward thanks to the project.
The data platform improves management efficiency and helps develop new business activities
Voimatel is highly satisfied with the results the project has yielded so far. Of particular importance is the fact that the new data platform and its related solutions create a basis for business development in the coming years.
“With the introduction of the data platform, all business units can now better develop knowledge-based management. We can also produce new services that utilise AI for customers,” Smolander says.
Nyyssönen explains that the development of the data platform, reporting and new business activities will continue in cooperation with Digia.
“We have identified the need for other Fast Track projects, and work on them will be commenced by the end of the year,” he says.
“It will be impossible to achieve a customer-centric and flexible energy system unless the sector’s operational models are developed further. That will require lots of data and smart technology, and we want to be part of making that change possible,” Smolander says.
Smolander and Nyyssönen explain that Voimatel’s experiences of working with Digia have been very positive.
“Digia has highly developed expertise in technology and analytics, which is supremely important. But, beyond that, they also have the courage to develop new things,” Smolander concludes.