Looking for the “Killer App” for IoT? Start by Unifying Communications
According to BI Intelligence, there will be more than 24 billion IoT devices on Earth by 2020. That’s approximately four devices for every human being on the planet and more apps than anyone can count. IoT continues to grow exponentially, so a thoughtful approach to utilities’ communications platform will help build a foundation that anticipates and adapts to change as the market evolves.
Today, smart grid and advanced metering infrastructure approaches like smart metering contribute to the data tsunami for utilities – and IoT promises to accelerate it. Utilities today must manage multiple smart grid communications, technologies, business processes and utility systems seamlessly. Many utilities have embraced “one off” solutions, adding automation, communications, or intelligence here and there – at the grid edge or across their transmission and distribution infrastructure – for specific uses. And today these often remain siloed and the data they produce difficult to access because they depend on one make or model or one type of technology or bandwidth within the scope of each particular network.
The Time for Patchwork Communications Has Passed
In “Internet of Things and the myth of the killer app, an article in Metering and Smart Energy International by Trilliant’s Ryan Gerbrandt, he explains, “The patchwork challenge has remained for utilities. Many that had invested deliberately to secure return on their investments are now facing limitations in managing, securing, updating — or bringing together for analysis — now exponential volumes of data.”
Gerbrandt shows how the communications system is best equipped to play this unifying role – but only if it is not tied to one limited technology or siloed network.
In fact, the rise of IoT is certain to be marked by many different products and approaches vying for dominance. There is no one killer app; the key is laying a communications foundation ready to enable many technologies from diverse data streams, allowing them to be accessed securely and flexibly across multiple ty and the ability to address more than just one function.
The ideal IoT- enabling communications platform should:
- Build a foundation that is open and secure.
- Adapt quickly to change.
- Avoid investment use-specific applications.
IoT Enabling: Trilliant’s Unifying Platform
Trilliant’s unified, multi-technology platform gives utilities the simplicity of one platform with the flexibility of multiple technologies, built with open standards and with broad industry support – providing utilities a low-risk path towards the smart grid. With cellular and LPWAN and RF mesh technologies integrated within one solution, it’s the only globally compliant communications solution that works in any terrain, architecture or use case. With a unified platform like this, utilities can address complex IoT scenarios, remove obstacles to innovation and implement a scalable, flexible and open approach.
Gerbrandt highlights several case studies demonstrating the use of Trilliant’s unifying platform. In these, devices can be scaled or added, bringing data together to provide powerful insight, efficiency and analytics capabilities. Trilliant’s platform has:
- Connected British Gas consumers’ in-home displays and provided meter data to the retailer, delivering information that each can use to manage energy efficiently. The UK utility’s connectivity with meters, operations and consumer home energy portals demonstrated its capacity to motivate customers to change energy use behaviors.
- Allowed Tampa Electric Company to pull together disparate streams of data from its communications network for further analysis and insight.
- Helped the Comisión Federal de Electricidad (CFE) in Mexico City with revenue assurance elements designed to reduce energy losses while also engaging consumers with more energy choices.
What each of these different utility use cases have in common is that while focusing on achieving a particular functionality with a near-term return, they installed a device agnostic, standards-based, globally compliant communications solution with a single unifying platform. This means each can add devices to scale up or add new functionality, unlocking new returns from its investment in the core solution. Gerbrandt writes, “Balanced against the need to deliver near-term benefits, infrastructure leaders will need to be increasingly future-ready. The unifying role of an enterprise wide communications system will be more important than ever.”
Ready or Not, Here Comes IoT
Are utilities ready? To prepare for the future, mission critical infrastructure must balance the need for near-term ROI and lay the groundwork for future benefits – while hedging the risk and uncertainties of an emerging marketplace. Trilliant’s one platform approach demonstrates how to handle this complexity through 1.) multiple communications options 2.) diverse deployment models 3.) world class security and 4.) must have interoperability.
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