Dark Data: What Does It Mean In The Energy World?

Every day, we produce 2.5 quintillion bytes of data. If that sounds like a lot, that’s because it is — and that number is only going up from here. Unfortunately, because so much data is churned out at such a massive scale, only some of that data ends up being used in meaningful applications. The rest is filed away into oblivion forever, becoming what’s known as dark data.

Though the name sounds sinister, dark data is anything but. While it may conjure up images of malware or hackers hiding behind their screens, dark data actually refers to the data organizations gather but don’t actually use to generate revenue. This can include everything from archived email correspondence to surveillance footage to historical records and more. 


Over 80% of the world’s data is dark and unstructured. That’s a huge amount, and there are several factors that contribute to its continued creation. 


As previously stated, data in general is being created and stored at unprecedented levels. Global data creation is projected to balloon to over 180 zettabytes by 2025; for comparison, only 4.4 zettabytes were created in 2013. By the same token, storage capacity is also skyrocketing, meaning that we’re able to keep all that data around for years to come. But why does some of that stored data go unused?

For one, there are minimal resources available to extract and analyze all of that dark data that exists in cyberspace. Few professionals have the skill sets needed to make good use of it. There’s also a general apathy towards utilizing dark data from organizational leaders to begin with — not to mention a hindering difficulty to coordinate dark data analysis efforts across departments. 

So, if dark data is so difficult to excavate and actually use, why is it so important? 


Dark Data Drives Better Business Outcomes


Although our storage capabilities are increasing, there’s still a cost associated with storing all that data. That begs the question: if we’re paying to store all that dark data, why not just make use of it? 

Companies can analyze dark data to understand greater context and reveal trends, patterns, and relationships that are easy to miss using normal business analytics. As a result, dark data analysis is a critical key to greater workplace efficiency, improved customer experiences, and better-functioning organizations in the long haul. Let’s say a customer contacted your business a month ago to discuss a payment plan. Taking advantage of the dark data generated from this call could bring you deeper insights than usual. Instead of simply logging how the customer contacted you and when, leveraging dark data can enable you to discover when your customers are likely to contact you, what their preferred communication channels are, and how to best serve their needs. That means you can plan accordingly to predicted behavior.

    Energy Data Is Still A Black Hole


    The energy ecosystem is rapidly expanding, giving rise to plenty of dark data that’s yet to be exploited. Not only is energy consumption increasing across the globe, but renewables and IoT-enabled operations are picking up steam, leaving scores of unused data in their wake. IoT devices generate up to 269 times more data than what is normally created, much of which ends up going dark. Instead of letting those insights go to waste, energy companies would be better off harnessing those deeper insights for better energy system management, higher efficiency, and improved communication among clients and stakeholders.

    As far as digitization goes, however, the energy industry still has some catching up to do. Much of the industry’s data is still logged with paper and pencil, which keeps vital information out of digital systems that can easily clean, organize, and convert raw data into actionable insights. 

    Furthermore, only a handful of countries have implemented meaningful strategies around their data consumption, but it’s only recently that the value of these strategies has been recognized.


    Dark Data Collection: From Ideation To Execution


    We’ve only reached the tip of the iceberg when it comes to dark data collection. Even today, there’s still much to be learned about how dark data can be harnessed to drive better outcomes in every sector, especially energy. 


    Looking at real-time data collection can point to clues as to how the advantages of dark data can trickle down from enterprise energy players to local ecosystems. But until we come to concrete conclusions, we’ll have to rely on the progress of groundbreaking technologies, like artificial intelligence, to help accelerate meaningful energy optimization and consumption. Hopefully, the energy sector will be quick to realize the potential of this untapped resource at their fingertips. 

    by | Sep 3, 2021

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