Whether you like the term, the Internet of Things (IoT), or not, it’s the term that seems to have been the stickiest, (other terms used have been Machine to Machine (M2M), Internet of Everything, and Industrial Internet.) IoT is not new, it has been around since the beginning of the Internet, think routers for instance. We’ve been hearing an increasing buzz around IoT as more business sectors, public, private and government deploy IoT. It’s more than small chips implanted into an NFL player’s shoulder pads, chips monitoring the wear and tear on the tires of your car, or your remote connectivity to the thermostat in your home. IoT is everywhere, and never more exciting than it is in deployment into the energy sector.
Recently, I attended the largest energy and utilities conference in the United States, DistribuTECH 2016. It was fascinating to see, touch, observe, and participate in lectures, as well as, panel discussions on the future of energy and utilities. Certainly renewable energy was a big topic, but of particular interest to me was how IoT is projected to be utilized in the energy and utility sector.
When you think energy and utilities you think power plants with large smoke stacks generating energy. You might even think of your local meter reader who stops by to read the meter thereby generating a bill for your energy usage. Now enter the 21st century and smart technology. Simplest reference? Think of a smart phone and then you’ll grab an instant understanding of smart technology. In the energy sector we hear smart meter, smart grid, smart cities for example.
So what’s a smart grid? You’ll find the smart grid at the corner of power grid and communications technology. The “grid” essentially refers to all the networks that carry energy from the power plant, solar, geothermal or wind farm to the consumer. This grid includes wires, substations, transformers, switches and much more. So add “smart” to the grid equation and you get computer-based, remote controlled, and completely automated technology. Ponder how slow the systems are employing a human labor force to physically monitor the grid, collect data on the grid, and make necessary changes. Smart meters thereby would have chips that monitor and collect data and can be read and interfaced with remotely. No need to send out a human labor force to manage the meters…an operational savings including labor force, fleet management, insurance, gasoline, maintenance and repair.
The smart grid increases efficiency in not only data collection measures, but also responding to malfunctions, outages, and customer-related issues. Having near real time data enables a time sensitivity and efficiency not possible with a human-monitored system. The smart grid’s ability to adjust usage based upon almost real-time need is unmatched in looking at saving resources, and conservation efforts.
Having an almost real time response to issues also increases customer service thereby elevating the all-important customer experience, (cx). When deploying smart technology there’s also the added benefit of two-way communication, a critical component changing the game entirely. The future of smart grid technology and the expanded applications as technology continues to evolve are absolutely endless, even mind-blowing when you consider the future of smart grids enabled to directly connect and communicate with electric vehicles.
Another cool technology I had the pleasure of playing with at Distributech is, Verizon Enterprise Solutions, Intelligent Video. Intelligent video brings surveillance technology into the 21st Century by achieving near real time results. I took the video above on my iPhone of what happened one afternoon when I experimented with the technology. Edge analytics has the capacity to spot unusual or abnormal behaviors and triggers alerts. As you can see from my short video clip above, I was tagged for unusual and abnormal behavior (any surprise?), and so I went from having a green box around my image to a red box.
Intelligent video gives security personnel, or law enforcement, almost real time visual information. Video surveillance of the past was a laborious search and assessment of previous capture that had an inefficient lag in time to deter crime, not to mention storage and networked issues, etc. Can you imagine the potential with almost real time video capture? Think of crime abatement through immediate alerts about perimeter breaches, or something as simple as being alerted when someone is present in an area they should not have access to? Interventional measures could be taken prior to an event occurring, thereby reducing crime and enabling a heightened sense of security. Or I could use this incredible technology to monitor my teenagers or perhaps my husband?
There’s nothing juicier to me than taking a peak into the future and also learning what we have at our fingertips today due to new innovation and technological advances. The future is being written now, and this year at DistribuTECH I experienced a few very riveting new chapters.
(In the desire for full disclosure, I attended DistribuTECH on behalf of Verizon Enterprise, one of my clients.)