Robot journalists, cars that drive themselves, fridges that alert you when your milk is going bad…welcome to the future, powered by the Internet of Things (IoT).
The IoT is here to stay, and it is transforming how we live, work and play. Businesses will be the biggest adopters of IoT, followed by governments and consumers.
Everyone’s talking about the Internet of Things. But what the heck is it exactly and what does it mean for the energy industry?
The Internet of Things basically means connecting any “thing” with the big old Internet – everything from phones, toasters, cars, almost anything you can think of, including humans (think of the Fitbit) and even cows. The IoT is the huge network of all these connected “things”.
It seems like the term “IoT”, just like “Big Data”, is being thrown around by everyone and anyone these days and it’s causing lots of hype. But is it just a buzzword or is it really a big deal?
The term “Internet of Things” was first coined in 1999, although the concept goes back much further and it has come to be one of the top technology trends of recent years. The number of connected devices is set to keep on rising. Gartner reckon there will be 26 billion connected devices by 2020, while Cisco put the number at 50 billion.
Given these numbers, and the huge possibilities opening up, it seems the IoT is not going anywhere and is becoming less of a buzzword and more of a mainstream and core part of business and society.
How does the Internet of Things (IoT) impact energy?
Let’s imagine for a moment the future of energy powered by IoT.
Smart grids allow utility companies to read and monitor electricity use digitally, without the need to send staff out to read meters. They can quickly identify the location of a failure along the grid.
The lighting and HVAC systems of an entire hospital or university can be automated and centrally controlled. Likewise, consumers can control their house’s heating thermostat via a mobile app, from wherever they are. City dashboards, like this one for London give real time information on traffic flow, weather alerts, rail and bus services and air pollution.
These examples are not science fiction; they are already here. Welcome to Energy 3.0, where digital technology and energy meet.
By using sensors, meters, digital controls, and analytics to track and manage the flow of energy and information, IoT is the backbone of Smart Energy Management, Smart Buildings and Smart Grids. Scaling up, IoT is a big deal when we’re talking about Smart Cities.
You might not be aware to what extent the IoT is already a part of our lives and our urban environments. Cities will use 1.6 billion connected things by the end of this year, 2016, with Smart Buildings making up the biggest share, according to Gartner:
“Smart commercial buildings will be the highest user of Internet of Things (IoT) until 2017, after which smart homes will take the lead with just over 1 billion connected things in 2018,” Bettina Tratz-Ryan, Research Vice President at Gartner.
Our energy analysis platform, DEXCell Energy Manager is an example of IoT in action. It uses a sensor to monitor energy use, and sends it to the cloud to allow you to track and manage your energy consumption via an online dashboard.
What does the Energy IoT mean for you, as an energy professional?
The IoT is one of the biggest developments affecting energy management, with major opportunities, but also new challenges. Here are a few crucial things to keep in mind:
-> You need to budget for it:
Be a leader; don’t play catch up. Include investment in IoT in your future budgets to stay ahead of the competition. This means having budget available to invest in a better data analysis platform, more smart hardware devices and gateways to improve your energy efficiency, performance and have the best tools and insights to offer your clients. We are seeing companies investing heavily in IoT, and establishing dedicated IoT units. Schneider Electric have opened a global research and innovation center for IoT and Energy Management to make sense of all the new data made available by IoT and innovate new relevant services for customers.
-> You need to train for it:
Employees need to be capable of managing multiple connected devices. Are your team prepared? And as we see the rise of smart machines and robots, should you be thinking about incorporating more machines into your processes and how will this impact your existing human resources?
You also need to empower your end customers with the tools and information they need to understand how to use your products and services, and feed back information to you. A strong communication strategy is essential to move new niche technologies from the “geek factor” into mainstream adoption among your target market.
-> Someone needs to take care of the data:
The huge amounts of data facilitated by the IoT need to be stored somewhere, tracked and analysed. You need to account for this storage and management time in your future plans. As Gartner says: “the value is in the answers, not the data.” It’s no use having heaps of new data if you don’t maximise it and monetise it.
-> Security is a real concern:
As the multitude of connected devices continues to rise, so too do the threats to security. This is a real problem. How can you ensure the privacy of your own and your clients’ data? What measures do you have in place now and how will they evolve in line with future advances in technology?
This is especially a consideration for smart buildings. Where entire buildings are digitally automated, a hacker could potentially cut the power in an entire building, causing havoc and with serious economic and security consequences.
By the end of 2018, 20% of smart buildings will have suffered from digital vandalism. So, you need to have the latest security and authentication measures to prevent against such cyber threats.
The future of the energy industry will be intertwined with the Internet of Things. As we see more and more connected devices being developed, we will gain greater control, data and energy savings. It’s an exciting and challenging time for energy management, and time to harness the opportunities opened up by the IoT.