IoT for Utilities: Harnessing Data From Grid’s Edge

The next evolution of the grid is being driven by big data—and it requires a big solution.

Digital transformation is driving greater adoption of smart utility devices such as electric vehicles, demand response home and office automation, and distributed energy resources (DER). Increased adoption of smart devices is resulting in rising electricity consumption, with no signs of this slowing down: global energy consumption is expected to rise by 48% by 2040 from 2019 levels and U.S. consumption is projected to rise by 43% by 2022.

For utilities, monitoring and operating the grid becomes more difficult as generation and load expand rapidly. These grid edge smart devices are often interconnected and generate ever-increasing quantities of data for utility companies to collect, store, and manage. Sifting through this data and making it useful and profitable requires a robust solution that harnesses the power of the Internet of Things (IoT), and fuels new advanced services such as machine learning, AI and analytics.

IoT is powering the utility industry to automate processes and make informed decisions from grid insights. However, grid edge big data presents unique challenges and leaves utilities open to new vulnerabilities from IoT devices. In this article, we will explore how IoT has massive potential for helping utilities better integrate and manage smart metering, water infrastructure, and even smart cities—and how big data solutions are a key aspect of this.

Machine Learning and IoT for Utilities

IoT refers to the interconnected system of devices, controllers, and sensors operating on computer networks and generating massive quantities of data. As of 2018, there were over 22 billion IoT direct and connected devices such as laptops, smartphones, smart meters, and line sensors being used globally. That number is expected to grow beyond 50 billion by 2030.

Utilities are leveraging IoT devices to create powerful connected networks of data flows among distributed energy resources, in-home devices, and nano/microgrids. IoT devices are helping utilities map the grid, with 69% agreeing IoT is critical to the company’s success.

As the volume of data flowing through IoT devices increases, the workflow orchestration needed to maintain this volume presents a unique challenge. Without the right tools in place, this massive quantity of data remains inaccessible to the teams who monitor and operate the grid. To analyze all of this IoT data and use it to optimize control of the grid, a convergence of various technologies is needed, including machine learning, big data platforms, embedded systems, real-time reporting, and commodity sensors. Machine learning (ML) paired with IoT has enabled utilities to welcome the next generation of the grid by providing critical insights into operational behaviors and asset health, for example.

Gaining Insights Across the Grid with IoT

IoT devices are growing at a rapid pace with more meters connecting to the grid, sensors deploying over distributed networks, and customers purchasing in-home devices. Let’s take a look at how IoT is offering unique grid insights to improve decision making and increase operational efficiencies across all utility sectors.

Smart Meter Reading

Utilities are using smart meter reading to gain analytical understanding down to the substation level, feeder and last mile. With smart meters, utilities can track, forecast and plan the volatility of today’s energy consumption and production patterns, resulting in an expected $157 billion in smart meter cost savings by 2035. Smart meters have become a preferred IoT device among utilities, with 50% identifying meter data management as a key IoT program.

Smart meters produce real-time IoT data for power generation and distribution, that enable utilities to gain the insights needed to lower operating costs and increase efficiency.

IoT-Enabled Water Management

Water management utilities are leveraging IoT throughout the water cycle—from sourcing water resources to efficient wastewater treatments. With smart water management, operators have visibility over connected meters to evaluate pressure and flow, instantly detect leaks, and automate corrective measures. Utilities can analyze the data and pass along reports to consumers for direct visibility into their water consumption and how it compares to city averages, previous month usage, and similar homes in the area.

Water consumption measures can also be put in place to support conservation efforts. An estimated 3.6 billion people suffer from water scarcity globally at least one month each year. As conservation becomes a greater priority, water utilities are leveraging IoT via smart irrigation to reduce costs and minimize water usage.

Streamlining Smart Cities

Smart cities built on IoT devices improve communities by prioritizing safe streets, smart buildings, and efficient utilities. The smart city development model is growing as more active connectible IoT devices become available. Data is collected across connected microgrids and can be used to improve resident living standards, improve traffic flow, streamline public transportation, and improve city utility efficiency.

Smart cities can gain further insight by implementing a smart meter operations center (SMOC) to manage all aspects of their infrastructure from rollout management to end-to-end monitoring of the data flows for millions of dispersed smart devices. With a robust SMOC, utilities can offer operational efficiency and a digital hub to power grid operations and new services that bring immediate value to customers and smart city inhabitants.

Utilihive Powers IoT for Utilities

Digital transformation is pushing us into a data economy where utilities have to operate at the grid edge. Embracing IoT and big data management will be critical for optimizing predictive and self-healing grids. As more IoT devices become available, utilities are challenged with how to handle increasingly large amounts of data. Utilities need a platform that puts them in the driver’s seat with seamless integration of software to optimize a digital grid.

Utilihive is powering IoT with out-of-the-box system integration for software operating smart meters, smart grids, and smart cities. Utilihive is making it possible for utilities to accelerate smart metering as a service by offering prebuilt data connectors and data flows for any utility or metering service provider. It simplifies and streamlines the meter-to-cash process and offers a unified data lake for valuable insights into the low/ medium voltage grid using advanced analytics tools or applications like Utilihive MonAMI LV Grid and AMI monitoring solution..

IoT is transforming how utilities operate, but it still requires smart solutions to manage and unify the magnitude of data. Utilihive unlocks big data and enables utilities to accelerate innovation and the development of new business models including DERs, eMobility, and data-driven smart city initiatives.

Are you ready to harness big data now?

About Greenbird:
Greenbird is an international solution and technology company with roots in Norway. We simplify the complexity of Big Data Integration to help organizations unlock the value of their data and mission critical applications. Our flagship innovation, Utilihive, is a cloud-native platform combining enterprise integration capabilities with a data lake optimized for energy use cases. We founded Greenbird in 2010 with a mission to revolutionize how the energy industry thinks about enterprise system integration. Today, Utilihive is used by utilities across Europe, Middle East and Asia serving more than 50 million consumers.

Greenbird is headquartered in Oslo and has around 50 employees, comprising primarily of senior developers and consultants and specializing in technology development and customer onboarding of the Utilihive platform.

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