IoT Blog
IoT Blog

Sentient Energy Uses the IoT for Smart Power Delivery

by Olivier Amiot, Director of Marketing, Energy
Many major utility companies continue to rely on some of the earliest technology, pumping out electricity from water, steam or coal. In fact, converting movement into energy predates electricity. Just look at windmills in the Netherlands, which were used to crush grain or operate looms. It seems like an industry that’s far removed from the cutting-edge nature of the Internet of Things (IoT), which brings to mind images of smart houses and cool wearables. 

But the truth is, the IoT can revolutionize any industry. The IoT’s impact extends far beyond fitness bands and clever thermostats. Utilities are among the IoT’s early innovators, leveraging this technology as they modernize their services, reduce waste, decrease stoppages, monitor output and increase efficiency. These companies prove that virtually any large industry can employ the transformative power of the IoT. But you need the right connectivity technology. 

Utilities and grid analytic companies, such as Sentient Energy in California, have come to rely on standardized cellular technology to ensure consistent connectivity at low costs. By using networking modules for 4G LTE-Advanced and LTE networks, as well as the Sierra Wireless Smart Connectivity offering, an industry can modernize, while setting the stage for global expansion. Utility companies have existed for decades, but the model they use to access the IoT is always cutting edge. 

Utilities - Webinar

Sentient Monitors Distribution Grid

Many utilities still run far-flung substations and reclosers on autopilot. That’s because remote real-time oversight is just too costly. But the cost of “flying blind” is significant. If there is a sudden surge from a lightning strike, or if the system goes down for another reason, technicians must be dispatched to manually locate and repair the problem. Every moment spent trying to find the problem is a moment with an off-balance system or customer outage. This problem accounts for $150 billion in annual losses in the United States alone. 

That’s where Sentient can assist. Makers of a grid analytics system, their products are designed to identify and analyze potential faults or failings on the grid. The system monitors mission-critical events, while assisting in locating problem areas.

Sentient’s products had to confront a concern that also impacts utilities: how do you maintain a connection across such a widespread area, especially in rural regions? The challenge was even greater in settings where deployments spanned state and even federal borders. Standardized cellular technology was the answer. 

The Benefits of Standardized Tech: Any Industry Can Go Global

To make their products really work, Sentient sought out AirPrime® embedded modules to create a hybrid mesh/cellular model. Either can be deployed depending upon their customer’s needs. 

This allowed for maximum band support, while providing the most global LTE coverage with a single module. For instance, most of California has strong 4G coverage, especially along the coast. But 4G coverage gaps do exist, yet these areas still have power. (This is especially true in remote desert or mountain outposts.) Sentient required a module in the system that could utilize available cellular coverage even when 4G was not available and can fallback to 3G / 3.5G technologies. 

Now expand globally. Europe trails America in terms of 4G coverage. This makes a cellular connectivity model ideal, especially for applications like utility monitoring, which don’t transmit much data. By having a wireless solution with resilient global connectivity, Sentient has global coverage with one solution! 

Standardized technology, like cellular, is what makes reliable global deployment possible for any industry. Any company that has (or desires) a global reach through the IoT will need industrial-grade products that adapt to different connectivity climates. 

Not only that, but a company will need to monitor their connections. Sentient also leveraged Sierra Wireless’ AirVantage® IoT Platform. This cloud platform allows them to monitor the thousands of Sierra Wireless SIMs that are deployed throughout their customers’ systems. 

Adaptability gives you power in the connected economy. Any business can be transformed by the IoT, but they need the right technology. It’s time to get connected and go global. Start with Sierra to learn how.