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The Buzz From European Utility Week: New IoT Solutions Mean Business

by Olivier Amiot, Director of Marketing, Energy
European Utility Week is always a good way to gauge trends, and this year’s event, held in Amsterdam from October 3 to 5, was no exception. Of the many topics discussed, one thing was clear: utilities are getting down to business when it comes to gathering, managing, and protecting data. More and more, they’re turning to the IoT for ways to improve operations, save energy, and create value.

The Edge-to-Cloud Advantage in Efficiency
Efficiency has always been a focus in the utility sector, but it has taken on even more importance as the Internet of Things (IoT) has continued to streamline operations. Connecting to the cloud creates new ways of gathering information in real time for better decisions, lower operating costs, and increased efficiency. Most recently, being able to process data, not just move it from point to point, means the cloud is populated with rich, contextual data. As a result, actionable information is available faster, and there’s greater flexibility to create centralized and decentralized operations. 

The best of today’s IoT solutions span the distance between the device, the edge, and the cloud, and deliver the near-real-time data analysis needed for improved operations. This ability to distribute intelligence between the edge and the cloud redefines the paradigm for smart energy and offers compelling opportunities for new, smarter services.

The Power of Partnerships
As IoT technologies continue to mature, it’s clear that technology on its own won’t take utilities where they want to go. To make a real impact, technology must address solid use cases and be available in tailored, ready-to-run solutions that address everyday concerns, including efficiency, performance, security, maintenance, service expansion, and overall cost.

What’s also becoming clear is that utility companies are embracing the ecosystem for IoT solutions and partnering with experts to create more resilient deployments. Utilities are coming to understand that navigating the IoT is not a solitary journey. Effective partnerships help define use cases, uncover hidden complexities, anticipate future needs, and result in highly integrated solutions that are more robust, scalable, and easier to operate.

Data Privacy: Regulatory Complexity in the EU 
Data privacy is another key issue for utilities. In a presentation that underscored the importance of protecting data and highlighted the complexity of European energy regulation, Mercè Griera i Fisa, the Head of Research and Innovation Sector for the Directorate General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology (“DG Connect”) for the European Commission, made two key points.

First, she reminded the audience that the EC’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which specifies how data collected from EU residents is to be managed, protected, and processed, will take effect soon. All EU-based companies, including utilities, will need to comply by May 25, 2018.

Second, she explained that new legislation regarding the free flow of data across Europe is under discussion. The new rules would change how private data is protected and where it is allowed to travel, which could impact any utilities that prefer to keep data within national boundaries. The proposed legislation has prompted a debate about whether utility data should have the same status as public-sector information. We can expect to see the discussion continue as the new legislation evolves. 

Extra Capacity: Getting More from the Existing Grid
EUW 2017 was a chance for Energy Pool, a French company and Sierra Wireless customer, to showcase their innovative way of helping utilities make better use of the existing energy grid. Energy Pool’s Distributed Energy Resources Energy Management System (DERMS) is a demand-response solution that makes it easier to meet peak demand by helping large-scale energy users in manufacturing and logistics change their usage patterns. By using the comprehensive analytics of the DERMS setup, utilities and their customers work together to add automation and make better use of the grid. Built-in safeguards, including sophisticated firewalls and oversight procedures, prevent physical access to customer IT networks and ensure any reductions in power are clearly managed and fully approved.

Energy Pool Solution

According to Energy Pool, their services have, within the past year alone, saved more than 1.1 million tons of CO2 – the equivalent of taking more than 600,000 cars off the road. Energy Pool clients and electrical grid stakeholders have saved a combined total of more than 300 million euros.

Smart Homes: Enhanced Demand Response 
For the second year in a row, Sierra Wireless was part of EUW’s ESMIG Zone, where the European Smart Metering Industry Group gave a multi-vendor demo focusing on standardized solutions for demand-response in the smart-home environment. Highlighting Sierra Wireless’ AirVantage® IoT Platform and the FX30 programmable IoT gateway, the demo showed that adding a single layer of standardization to the communication architecture makes the smart-home environment more flexible and responsive. The result is a multi-protocol operating environment that offers seamless two-way communication with the utility grid for every appliance – from headphones to washing machines – while simplifying the consumer setup and expanding the options for smart, in-home power management.

Mobile IoT: LPWA is Here
EUW 2017 was also a place to see the progress being made with Low-Power Wide-Area (LPWA LTE-M (Cat-M1) and NB-IoT (Cat-NB1) technologies, which promise to benefit utility companies by lowering device complexity, extending coverage and, perhaps most important, delivering battery life of 10 years or more. LTE-M is in trials now and will be commercially available from a number of operators in 2018.

To help spread the word, we were part of the GSMA booth, where the trade association highlighted “LTE-M Performance for Power & Gas Distribution.” In the GSMA seminar session,  “The Future of Smart Utilities with Mobile IoT,” we presented our ongoing work with network operators. 

Getting Started: 5 Steps to the IoT
European Utility Week is, in many ways, a jumping-off point for the IoT. As a follow-on to the show and to help utility companies move toward the IoT, we’re offering a white paper that outlines the five essential steps to get you prepared. You can download a copy of “The Internet of Things Opens Utilities to New Business Models” here.

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