Quality of Service

As digital energy services become the main interface between an energy company and its customers, the quality of the service provided becomes critically important. A high-quality service, delivered with consistency and a high level of accuracy provides a competitive advantage as it builds deeper relationships with consumers and discourages churn, while a low-quality service is likely to have the opposite effect.

Delivering a high quality of service starts with the basics of using a high-availability cloud platform designed for redundancy and scalability. The platform also needs to be monitored 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, with resources available to identify and fix any issues very quickly.

Mature digital services platforms are typically offered with a clear Service Level Agreement that spells out the provider’s quality of service commitment. This usually includes a monthly service availability target of between 99.9% (“three nines”) and 99.99% (“four nines”), with financial compensation offered in the form of service credits in case of under-achievement. While this high level of availability sounds attractive from a buyer’s point of view, it generally comes at a cost and is hard to deliver in practice, so unless it comes with credible evidence of a supplier’s ability to deliver, actual consistent achievement of the Service Level Agreement goal should not be taken for granted.

It is also important to bear in mind that quality of service is not purely a matter of IT operations delivery – managing hardware failures, handling software upgrades and generally running a cloud platform in a controlled and professional manner. Platform security is intrinsically linked to quality of service. A good example is a platform’s ability to withstand denial of service (DoS) attacks. Unlike a typical website where only the user interface (or APIs used by the user interface) can be targeted by a denial of service, IoT solutions provide another attack surface: the interface used by in-home devices to send data to the cloud platform. While the approaches that can be used to deal with a DoS attack on the former are generally well-understood, not all platform providers have a credible plan to deal with the latter. Solutions that are based on devices that are programmed to send data to a hardcoded IP addressed data concentrator will fail in cases where that IP address is flooded by a DoS attack, and unless there is fast and reliable way for these devices to switch to a different IP address location that isn’t under attack, the resulting impact on service availability could be severe and long-lasting. Even systems that make use of DNS entries are susceptible to this type of exploit, unless a public DNS resolver capable of resolving a large number of names to IP addresses is used.

Similarly, the ability for a digital energy services platform to block attempts at “device spoofing” is critical in delivering quality of service. If a rogue operator were able to trick the platform into accepting incorrect data, either from devices pretending to be legitimate (“spoofing”) or by taking control of legitimate devices, the service provided is compromised, leading to huge potential reputational damage to the energy company providing the service.

About the authors

This white paper was written by Rik Temmink (Chief Data Services Officer) and Adrian van den Heever (Chief Technology Officer) of geo, the UK’s leading smart energy technology company. If you would like to explore the topics discussed in this white paper in more detail, please contact geo by phone on +44(0)1223 850 210 or by email at marketing@geotogether.com.

Download the full white paper here