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How real-time data can help lower UK energy bills

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Jamil Ahmed Distinguished engineer, Solace

 

The UK has continued to see surging energy price rises. Following an increase in the UK’s energy price cap, by October, a household’s typical energy bill will be set to rise to a whopping £800. The costs are being passed on to the consumer, already struggling with rising inflation. So what can be done to help reduce a household’s energy bills to help the impact on one’s finances?

The rising price of energy can be attributed to several reasons. Firstly is the initial economic bounce back following the pandemic seeing soaring demand. However global factors such as the windless summers seen in Europe, droughts in South America and the ongoing conflict in Ukraine have all been major contributors to price rises. While the UK government has already offered loans and begun debates for a windfall tax, this is only a short term fix, and more must be done.

 

Making meters smarter

Over the past 10 years, the UK government has made concrete efforts in the installation of smart meters. Despite the initial onset cost of delivery and installation, the government believes that the benefit will be seen in the long term across households in the UK.

Yet smart meters have taken a public beating. The criticism is not the direct fault of the device itself, but rather in its execution. ‘Non-smart’ meters, what we are used to seeing, do not do enough to bring a full context into one’s energy consumption. Typically, when looking at their meter, a consumer will simply see a number rising with no specific understanding as to what it refers to in terms of pound for pound usage. This data adds little value to a consumer and has no impact on the potential positive changes that can be made in everyday energy consumption.

The first step to solving this issue is to improve the consumers’ understanding of how they typically consume energy throughout any given day. This means there needs to be a complete overhaul at both the consumer and company level. If a consumer is more knowledgeable as to how much their energy usage impacts their bills, they will be better informed of how reflective their daily habits of consumption are.

By presenting the data registered by smart meters – for instance through an interactive display, a mobile app or even a simple website – it gives consumers a deeper level of understanding of their energy consumption habits. If a consumer can see the differing prices for energy as part of a smart tariff, they can adjust their behaviour accordingly. This will be used to their advantage, such as moving the usage of their washing machine to the next day, or charging their car late at night if costs are lower in the evening. This is a clear example of nudge theory, a concept in behavioural economics that passes positive reinforcement and indirect suggestions onto the consumer. In this case, not only will it reduce a consumer’s energy bill long-term, but it will allow for further environmental initiatives to be pushed forward.

The question is how can smart meters offer the highest level of accuracy and timely nudges to the consumer? The answer lies in real-time data movement.

 

How the government can act

In 2021, the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem) announced it would create the Market-Wide Half Hourly Settlement (MHHS). This proposal is a key enabler in supporting the transition to net-zero. It will contribute to creating a cost-effective electricity system and encourage more flexibility in one’s usage of energy to lower household bills.

The programme will mandate that all energy companies provide half-hourly updates from providers on a consumer’s energy consumption. When put in place, it will see a boom in the efficiency of smart meters as it allows consumers and businesses alike to reduce energy usage, moving us towards a greener Britain.

For smart meters to provide this level of insight, it will require a seamless movement of vast amounts of data between the smart meters to the energy providers, and back again to the consumer across different channels. As it stands, smart meters summarise the consumption data in, usually, daily updates to the provider. This move to half-hourly will mean a 48x increase in data volume to process from each meter. Existing IT infrastructures are not currently built to cope with this expected massive change in data volume. Energy providers must deal with the issue sooner, rather than later.

 

The key lies in real-time event-driven architecture

Real-time data movement occurs when a piece of information can travel almost immediately the moment an event happens, all across the chain of interested applications and users. Consider the smart meter as a publisher of consumption events, with the energy provider and the members of the household as simultaneous subscribers to those same events. Event-driven architecture (EDA) organises IT systems around the flows of these ‘events’ to provide a more seamless and ‘joined up’ experience across different business functions and services. Companies in the retail sector have adopted such an approach to implement ‘omnichannel’ shopping experiences, for example.

Only when there is no delay in such data movement, can it truly act as the ‘nudge’ to positively adapt and lower usage habits, or detect potential energy wastage. This envisaged decrease in total usage benefits both the consumer’s wallet and the environment.

In fact, it is for this reason that Ofgem has proposed for the MHHS programme to embrace EDA as its underlying IT foundation. The need for real-time has already been recognised by many to drive greater value out of their data. A recent global survey reported 71% see the benefits outweighing the costs of implementing EDA. Thankfully, Ofgem has recognised the need for EDA in lowering prices, helping power the race to net zero.

EDA will be the sole differentiator for MHHS to be successfully implemented and achieve the desired aims. It will allow energy providers to react in real-time to updates from smart meters, and in turn, inform consumers through apps and services in real-time of usage insights with new capabilities such as trend reporting and more accurate future consumption predictions.

Environmentally speaking, the race to net-zero can and should be powered by real-time data. Off the back of MHHS, Ofgem could introduce ‘smart tariffs’ to act as an incentive to decrease energy usage. When prices are lower during certain periods, customers can be made aware, in real-time, through a multitude of channels (such as mobile apps or smart home devices), encouraging them to take advantage of this shift and alter consumption levels. Taking this one step further, it can be applied to connected appliances as well, helping alter usage patterns to optimise costs based on the insights available from this new future. Imagine electric vehicles automatically adjusting charging activity themselves to optimise costs.

Eventually, the proposal of encompassing EDA into the UK energy sector is both a welcomed and necessary one. Event-driven architecture will be the pivotal driver, long term, for reducing costs on both sides of the energy aisle.

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Real-time payments are here to stay and with good reason 

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Real-time Payment (RtP) models are here to stay for the foreseeable future alongside traditional payment schemes. But as businesses increasingly recognize their potential, further cases for real-time payments are coming to the fore. That’s according to Buckzy Payments Inc., (https://buckzy.net/) the Toronto-based global fintech on a mission to make international payments quicker, more reliable, and more affordable.

Umesh Maini, Chief Product Officer at Buckzy, stated, “Customer-oriented businesses such as retailers and hospitality providers value the increased speed with which they receive funds through real-time payments. In addition, during the Covid-19 pandemic, cross-border online purchasing increased, which put more pressure on liquidity for merchants due to the settlement times involved. But with the pandemic far from over, businesses from a wide variety of industries are also now looking at RtP with increased interest as a remedy to this issue, since with RtP it is the payer that is responsible for and controls the flow of funds rather than the payee and their bank or payment provider.

“RtP not only speeds up client payments – it can also improve cash flows, budgeting, financial projections and cash management,” explained Maini. “And if that’s not enough to get every Chief Financial Officer sitting up and paying attention, RtP also offers an opportunity to support and accelerate other digital innovations and trends, such as expedited bill payments, faster payroll disbursements to workers, and the ability for current account holders to manage their cash better. In other words, it acts as a major catalyst for businesses to digitally transform their business models by being able to accept payments that are settled in real-time.”

“Across the world, tech-savvy consumers and companies alike now want their bill payments, online shopping and cross-border transactions completed instantly, cheaply and at scale. That’s the power of RtP,” added Maini.

Maini summarizes the main benefits for financial services providers to adopt and support real-time payments as follows:

  • RtP helps with customer acquisition a real-time payment provides an additional set of services that will help to attract new customers
  • RtP removes the need to use costly, outdated fund transfer methods like SWIFT
  • RtP provides extra clarity for users to manage cash through up-to-the minute transaction histories and real-time account balances
  • Increased revenue through improved economies of scale and customer retention
  • Manual processes can be reduced, which in turn saves costs
  • RtP enables better customer insights compared with cash, which can then be used by the payment provider to improve their other financial services
  • RtP data can also improve anti-money laundering (AML) and fraud monitoring

“As with any major shift in technology, payment providers will face both costs and benefits to upgrade their systems to a new faster payments infrastructure. Investment by providers and adoption by users will both depend on the specific benefits each gains from real-time payments. Consumers today expect to get what they want quickly and at any time, at the push of a button. This also goes for their payments and it’s why RtP will quickly become the new normal,” concluded Maini.

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Union Bank of India goes live with RuPay Credit Card on UPI with Kiya.ai as a technology partner

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Nitesh Ranjan, ED Union Bank of India with Rajesh Mirjankar, Managing Director & CEO, Kiya.ai at the launch

 

Kiya.ai, one of the most innovative digital solutions providers in India, announced that Union Bank of India was among the first banks to launch NPCI’s UPI linked to Rupay Credit Card and UPI Lite on the unified payments interface (UPI) platform with Kiya.ai as their technology partner in this achievement.

The announcement comes after the RBI Governor Shri Shaktikanta Das and National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) launched RuPay credit card on UPI, UPI Lite and Cross Border payments for BBPS at Global Fintech Fest 2022.

Until now, UPI allowed the linking of bank accounts by mapping an account linked with a mobile number and an savings / current account. Earlier in June 2022, the RBI allowed the linking of credit cards with UPI, stating that RuPay credit cards would be initially linked with UPI “to provide additional convenience to users and enhance the scope of digital payments”.

Rajesh Mirjankar, Managing Director & CEO, Kiya.ai, “We are extremely delighted to partner with Union Bank of India in this pilot project of linking RuPay Credit card on UPI. Kiya.ai has partnered with Union Bank of India for various digital payment initiatives including UPI, UPI Lite, UPI linkage to credit card, and sandbox for API banking.  The linking of credit card to UPI will significantly enhance high-volume transactions while also increasing average amount per transaction given the ease of using credit facility on UPI. This is a game-changing initiative as it will ensure safe and contactless transactions, reducing the risk of credit card frauds too.”

Mr. Nitesh Ranjan, ED Union Bank of India said, “We are pleased to embrace the decision taken by the Reserve Bank of India and NPCI to enable Rupay credit cards through UPI. Union Bank of India is proud to be a part of this launch. This is a game changer as one would be able to use a credit card for doing payments using UPI. We are excited to partner with Kiya.ai on this journey, and together, we can provide a smooth user experience to customers and make India even more digitally advanced.”

As part of the pilot project, NPCI will integrate the UPI AutoPay feature with credit card transactions to reduce the risk of defaults on credit card payments.

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