Trends in Utilities Part 1: Internet of Thing (IOT) is coming…Are you ready for it?

This audio was created using Microsoft Azure Speech Services

The Consumer Electronic Show (CES) took place early in January and there is a lot of buzz about Home Automation. Being a long-time bit of a geek myself in this space, it is exciting to see that this wave of interest in this area is starting to get some legs. I already have two automation systems in operation now, one in my home in Central New Jersey, and another that I installed at a friend’s home at the New Jersey shore. Both of these systems use a collection of devices that have WiFi, Z-Wave and ZigBee communications technologies, but what is most exciting is that I am now able to configure these systems to run scenarios based on IFTTT (If this, then that) constructs.

One of these scenarios that I have uses a combination of connected deadbolt door lock, lighting controls, motion sensors, text messaging and my NEST thermostat. It goes something like this:

If I enter a unique locking code on the front door, then I am going to be away from my home. Since I am not going to be there, it makes sense to put the home to sleep. “Sleep” in my case means setting back the thermostat, adjusting the lighting, and arming my motion detectors to send a text message to me if there is any activity detected. This binding of actions is not new; it is something that I have discussed for years during many of the courses I have given at Distributech and elsewhere. But what makes this so exciting, is that doing this has become even simpler with smart phone technologies and easy to use apps.

As I write this blog, right now in the Northeast we are experiencing another Polar Vortex blast of cold air. In anticipation of the potential of freezing pipes, I installed a controllable heater, and remote temperature sensor right at the underground water service entrance point where I had some problems last year. From my iPhone, I can visually see the closed loop operation of turning on the heater when the temperature goes below 32 degrees, plot the outside temperature against the controlled space to determine the effectiveness of my design and get a text message if there is a danger of freezing pipes. The power of my small world of Internet of Things (IOT) opens a lot of possibilities.

So what does my hobby have to do with utility-based IOT?

First, I found a commercial solution to overcome the “Tower of Babel” of various protocols and networks. Having a gateway that talks to devices that natively are non-interoperable is a major breakthrough. While there have been some efforts to harmonize utility systems that use proprietary protocols and industry standards such as DNP3, IEC61850, Modbus, Multispeak and so forth, there is still a void that exists and a long way to go to get all disparate devices speaking the same language.

Second: using a parody from a popular pop song, “it’s all about the apps, ’bout the apps, ’bout the apps, not the data.” While I may have some interest at the lower levels of the device media, transport and protocol, stack, the real power comes when the applications make the underlying stuff all work.

Third, the realm of possibilities is almost limitless; the creative mind can easily imagine a situation where devices on a feeder interact with sensors and even with devices behind the meter to ensure stability and reliability of the service delivery.   Today’s Advanced Distribution Automation Systems (ADMS) have the power to logically link sensor data from multiple sources to control actions at a more sophisticated level than any automation app.

Finally, extending the application functionalities of awareness, control and optionality securely to remote users brings the power of such a system to the field, empowering a new set of users with a unique set of effective tools.

Schneider Electric blog

Come visit the Schneider Electric team in a few weeks at Distributech in San Diego, let us show you how we have embraced the Utility Internet of Things.

I welcome your feedback and comments and look forward to seeing you in San Diego.

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