Centrica's Mobility Initiatives Under the Spotlight
Alan Fairhurst, Field Applications Development Manager, Centrica joined the Enterprise Mobility Exchange to share exclusive insight into Centrica's mobility initiatives, and to give his views on the rapidly evolving enterprise mobility market, including reacting to a changing device market.
Enterprise Mobility Exchange (EME): How has the introduction of smart metering affected your mobility initiatives?
Alan: We use the same engineers as we've always used for metering installations. The big change for us is the fact we are now asking the engineers to commission the smart meters. So the meters themselves have changed and we're expecting the engineers to have the tools to commission the meters.
EME: In terms of the selection of technology, is that changing at all?
Alan: The device market is changing quite rapidly and we need to be able to be react to that. We[ve typically tended to focus our strategy upon the devices themselves, but now we need to look at the applications and what they can do and have much more flexibility in adapting to a changing device market.
EME: How do you see this evolving over the next three to five years?
Alan: I see it evolving much more to device agnostic applications. I hear a lot of tales about the device store. I'm personally more interested in scheduling and how I can run that across different business units. The device store concept is interesting to me, but I'm more interested in providing containers of applications that groups of engineers can use.
EME: Do you feel that HTML5 will play an increasing role in that seeing that it is operating system agnostic?
Alan: It is operating system agnostic. I think it's played quite a big role. I think it's a bit of an unknown at the moment. It seems like a bit of a magic bullet. So I'm not saying the jury's out on it, but it definitely will need some more investigation to see how flexible it is and how it's going to be able to help us create flexible, maintainable products.
EME: Hopefully there isn't too much of a functionality gap.
Alan: Yes, some of our applications are quite in-depth because they're analytical, for example, when we ask an engineer to maintain a central heating system is there a lot of diagnostic tools in there and a lot of the diagrams to be used and a lot of listening devices, for example, for white goods maintenance. So can HTML5 do it? I think it probably could, but we need to understand a little bit more about the capabilities.
EME: Many companies in the UK benchmark themselves against Centrica, who do you benchmark yourself against?
Alan: Because we have quite a diverse range of activities all the way through from central heating installations through to maintenance, appliance maintenance, obviously gas supply and electricity supply as well as solar and our day-to-day business is all about sales and debt, we tend to benchmark ourselves against the major players in those markets. So we don't have a single group or company that we actually benchmark ourselves against; we benchmark ourselves against the main competitor in those marketplaces.
EME: What do you feel the supplier community can do to help you in your mobility projects?
Alan: Really listen to me, be part of the team which is putting together a solution. Obviously we'd be looking for long term relationships with our suppliers and that's been historically the case and I can see it continue on that way. So we need them to listen to what we're saying, not assume they know the market completely and really work with a diverse company such as ourselves. Our challenge is to really make our field of mobile estate very much more maintainable and more future proof, so we need a lot of flexibility in the way we deliver and that's where the suppliers can really come and help us. So historically, because we've been quite a large player in the market and we were early to the mobility space, we've tended to build around solutions, but now we want to buy rather than build.