The revolutionary impact of the Internet of Things has been a source for speculation and excitement across the gas, water and electricity industries for several years now.
Utilities are only just starting to embrace the potential of a world of interconnected smart and autonomous assets and devices, but their learning curve will need to be sharp because the IoT and associated business opportunities are developing rapidly.
There were 900 million connected devices in the world in 2011. This is predicted to increase to 26 billion by 2020, and Cisco believes more than 500 billion devices will be connected by 2030. This surge in IoT-linked objects is set to create $14.4 billion of value in global economies over the next decade.
Early steps in the exploitation of the IoT have seen utilities adopt smart assets, equipped with a variety of sensors which communicate wirelessly with central asset management systems. This has enabled greater and more granular understanding of asset health. This has supported a change in approaches to maintenance. Where utilities relied on reactive maintenance schedules, now they can practice predictive maintenance.
This pro-active approach supports more efficient use of field personnel as well as more accurate investment planning. For example, in a connected windfarm a leading turbine can detect the force and direction of a threatening gust of wind and instruct its peers to adjust the angle of their blades to prevent damage.
But the IoT doesn’t just promise benefits to infrastructure operators. There can also be direct customer and environmental benefits, as seen in the San Diego trial in its East Bay Municipal Water District. Here, IoT-connected smart water meters were installed to provide customers with hourly consumption updates. The meters also sent alerts to the household if 24 hours of constant consumption is detected, highlighting a potential leak. The result was a 5 per cent drop in consumption.
As adoption of IoT-enabled devices grows, utilities could see benefits in operations, efficiencies, customer service and, ultimately, in their bottom line.
Technology is a key theme at Utility Week Live 2017, with numerous content sessions examining how and why technology will drive the transformation of utilities, including: