In early 2017, John Kennedy at SiliconRepublic declared the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) the ‘perfect storm’ – a convergence of technologies with the capacity to create new economic benefits based on operational efficiency. On these blog pages, we’ve covered many different facets of industries adopting intelligent communication technologies likes sensors, programmable radios, and powerful analytics tools, but one industry in particular seems poised for the greatest upheaval: utilities.
Many industry experts are pointing at utility markets as poised for revolution. So, what happens when the ‘perfect storm’ meets the revolution?
Critical Infrastructure Transformation
Given the way the human population is dispersed in the United States (and abroad), cities play a huge role in driving the growth of IIoT technologies in utilities. Water and wastewater treatment plants are perhaps one of the most important (and overlooked) pieces to modern infrastructure. Without these plants, after 1-2 uses, most of the water in North America would be unusable. Instead, companies are using sensors and other connected monitoring devices to create smart data that informs decision making, eliminates variables, and improves effective responsiveness.
Similarly, the electric grid has seen significant transformation as well. In the era of the smart grid, we now have the ability to monitor grid activity more closely, deploy electricity more efficiently based on usage spikes, and allow consumers to track their own energy usage. The residual effect of this tracking is, perhaps, an increased awareness of how we use energy on a daily basis and could lead to better individual conservation efforts.
Alternative Energy On The Rise
And speaking of conservation efforts, with the ability to use energy more efficiently, alternative energy has exploded as viable alternatives to our traditional resources. Wind power has grown into a consistent source of energy, but for years, operators needed a better way to monitor the energy systems. Today, IIoT technology not only allows better monitoring, but provides real-time management capabilities for operators. The name of the game is efficiency, and if the operations are efficient, then the usage can be efficient as well.
Since utility companies are now better equipped to understand when and how resources are being used or deployed, they can streamline some of the day-to-day operations by building a network of smaller solutions that are specifically designed to meet niche needs, creating more business opportunities for both traditional and alternative utility providers. Although many doomsday scenarios point to increased automation as the death of the worker, with a greater diversity of solutions, the economic impact might actually provide more jobs instead of fewer. Relying on the traditional model of the last half-century, however, does not.
Ultimately, we are still looking at an industry that is right on the cusp of revolution. Utilities have, historically, been slightly slower to respond to technology overhauls at a high level, but with the added efficiency and financial benefits that accompany IIoT adoption, companies are rethinking old strategies and pushing into a new frontier – confronting the ‘perfect storm’ head-on to ensure the best possible landscape once the dust settles.