Energy production and retailing company AGL has responded to the rising needs of prosumers by releasing native iOS and Andriod apps targeted at residential customers – the first app of its kind for any Australian tier-one energy retailer.
The technology, which has already seen strong download growth and engagement, allows customers to track usage and costs, and pay accounts.
AGL’s head of IT delivery Andy Williams said the journey has been undertaken with two broad aims at its centre; doing things faster, better, and cheaper, and creating a more engaging and effective customer experience.
“We did some planning and envisioning a year or so ago, asking ‘where did we see ourselves in 2017’, and from an IT perspective we saw ourselves being much closer to the use of cloud, the use of agile software development; building a whole new IT function that delivers both the back end and the front end in a more agile approach,” he said.
“Our business, just like the rest of the industry, expects us now to do things with a much faster turnaround, with the ability to deploy new products and new services out into an ever more digital customer environment.”
The apps rely on an Azure cloud-based application programming interface (API) – a set of routines, protocols and tools for building software applications – that provide platform that scales easily to match customer demand.
The Azure cloud is also opening up the possibility of the Internet of Things (IoT), which AGL has already started to tap into through a new product called Solar Command. Hosted on the AGL Solar website this gives customers the opportunity to be able to see how their solar panels are performing and provides advice on how to improve performance, for example whether they need cleaning or if a panel is malfunctioning or needs repair.
“I think the whole IoT and machine learning side is very exciting and obviously very closely linked into what we can get out of Azure,” Mr Williams said.
“Because we have a lot of generation plants we’re quite familiar with the idea of connected physical infrastructure. But with Solar Command, it’s that first foray into collecting non-meter data and adding real value for our customers. I think we’re starting to see that as our real future.
“What we’re pondering is how digital do we have to go across the entire business, and we’re working out how far we take what is currently a big SAP backend through to a more digital world and how far we roll out agile development techniques with Azure into what we do day by day.”