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Power Point | November 2016

IoT in the energy sector

The Internet of Things is a crucial component in building smart cities, which are the next evolution, according to Ashish Gulati, Country Head, Telit India.

Internet of Things (IoT) has led to the evolution of ´smartness´ in everything from the grid to the city. The number of advances in M2M/IoT technology has initiated energy-efficient innovations, which are driven by Big Data analytics and M2M IoT application platforms.

The energy-saving IoT played by smart meters has been widely used across the globe.

IoT based M2M solutions enable interaction, interoperability and resource sharing between different domains. Currently smart metering and energy management are isolated from each other. They address different needs and employ different technologies, which mean that creating comprehensive, integrated solutions is a huge challenge. Privatisation and newer regulations have unlocked the market with serious competition that has come into play, providing businesses and consumers with an increased number of choices to meet their energy needs.

According to Gartner, IoT usage in the energy sector is expected to grow to 50 billion devices by 2020, and manufacturers, utility providers, and consumers are taking advantage of information that flows from multiple assets.

India is slated to see the market for smart grid touch Rs.50,000 crore in the next four to five years, from the present level of sub Rs.100 crore. This would be fuelled by the government´s plan of setting up 100 smart cities and 500 smart towns.

The work involved here would include strengthening the electrical network, moving overhead distribution lines to underground cables at strategic locations in the city, automating sub-stations and distribution network, smart metering, rooftop solar integration, automated demand response systems to control certain loads to match demand with supply, state-of-the-art billing and collection systems, integrated customer care centres, energy storage systems, electric vehicle charging stations, smart street lights and mobile work force management systems.

According to a report by Deloitte, energy and utility are estimated to drive future market growth of M2M/IoT, as these markets are expected to grow at a CAGR of 38.12 per cent for the period 2011-2016. This is a result of the government´s serious initiatives to deploy smart energy meters.

Smart grid technologies that are able to track consumer usage and connect to smart meters will greatly improve energy efficiency by adjusting power distribution. Smart grids will reduce power loss while smart readers will automatically inform operators when maintenance is needed before a real issue develops.

This is a very key component when building smart cities.
Thus, there cannot be a smart city without smart grid technologies.
Focusing on energy grids and smart grids, IoT technology addresses some of the key issues like grid security, failure in distribution network, line losses, and overloading. As the energy resources deplete day-by-day, the worldwide focus has shifted towards achieving energy conservation and green energy by deploying IoT solutions. IoT applications have enabled power utilities to control assets from anywhere, and at any time. For the renewable energy sector, IoT technology brings sophisticated solutions for some of the key issues facing the renewable energy installations, plant monitoring, fault management, and performance monitoring.

Rising security concerns against cyber-attacks and demand for increased operational efficiency is expected to drive the IoT energy market in the coming years. As a result, solution providers are shifting focus towards IoT security solutions to safeguard the connected devices. IoT based solutions are further enabling companies to increase operational efficiency. Advancement in next generation sensors is another major driving factor for implementing IoT in the energy market. However, lack of skilled workers and increasing concern about data security and privacy acts as a restraining growth factor for the market.

Mobile technology applications have saturated the modern lifestyle and similar programs will be found in the energy sector soon. Smart apps, that allow users to control their utilities from their phone or tablet, are already being offered. Homes that learn and respond to personal energy usage patterns aren´t far from becoming a reality; the age of manually flipping a light switch may soon be over. For example, exiting from one room into another where the lights automatically go off and on, respectively, is technology that is possible with an automated smart system. Thus, sensors able to track movements will improve utility usage by turning off appliances and utilities as soon as they are no longer needed and again activating them as and when required.

Furthermore, smart meters also monitor the consumer´s energy consumption at regular intervals and transmits this information to the utility companies. The first key consumer benefit is the provision of accurate and up-to-date billing information, which allows utilities to introduce flexible payment methods. Smart meters also eliminates the need for periodic meter reading trips to each physical location.

Introduction of advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) enables two-way communication between consumers and utilities. This allows for additional services like remote connect or disconnection of energy that subscribers can employ in case of non-payment of their bill.

The addition of in-home displays (IHDs) allows consumers to monitor and better control their usage of electricity. However, these displays represent an extra cost that consumers are reluctant to pay; therefore mass adoption would require a subsidy from utilities or the government.

The use of standard-based, home area networking (HAN) communication technologies such as ZigBee, M-Bus and Broadband PLC, as well as smart plugs, allows smart meters to function as ´home connected meters´. This is a relatively new term, that indicates the emerging role of meters as the communication hub in HANs. HAN supports home automation connectivity with appliances, lighting, security systems and health monitoring devices. When those communications hubs are in place in millions of homes we can expect standards to emerge, device and sensor prices to fall, and kits to be marketed that enable everything to be connected into a home network.

We can safely assume that in future a communications hub will be present in every household. These hubs will provide wide HAN connectivity outside the home and as well as inside.

Different technologies are being developed and deployed in order to create next-generation hubs and there is no obvious ´winner´. The most likely result is that different technologies will be employed, which is already the case today in the smart energy sector.

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