As executives representing utilities, original equipment manufacturers (OEM), energy efficiency and management service firms and other energy industry companies descend on the DistribuTECH conference in New Orleans next week, they are likely to be particularly interested in learning more about the latest innovations in one particular type of technology – the Internet of Things (IoT). After all, in addition to the IoT having its own dedicated track with smart cities at the conference, it is also one of the core technologies enabling energy companies to realize many of the strategic goals they will be discussing at the conference, including how to:• Improve customer engagement and satisfaction
• Maximize the benefits of new battery-based energy storage systems
• Manage and optimize Distributed Energy Resources (DERs), including smart thermostats, Heating Ventilation and Cooling (HVAC) systems, solar power systems and combined heat and power units (CHPs)
• Increase the resiliency and reliability of building and facility energy systems, microgrids and even the grid itself.
Energy companies have already been working to create a variety of IoT applications to realize these goals. They are developing new demand-response applications that use the IoT to enable firms to secure compensation from utilities for modifying their energy assets’ energy consumption or generation during periods of peak demand. They are exploring applications that collect data on the operation of boilers, HVAC systems and other assets, so they can optimize these assets’ energy usage (reducing costs) or predict when they might need maintenance (reducing downtime). They are considering new applications that monitor transformers, switches and other grid infrastructure, allowing them to detect when an unexcepted power surge or other activity might damage grid equipment or cause a power outage. With these and similar IoT applications, they are building out a new Energy IoT that makes the delivery and use of energy more dependable, efficient and sustainable.
However, many firms remain wary of their ability to actually build and roll out Energy IoT applications that realize these goals, at least right now. Based on their own or other companies’ experiences, they have seen the difficulties in bridging the world of energy assets and other Operational Technologies (OT) with wireless networking, cloud and other Information Technologies (IT). Building Energy IoT applications that bridge these worlds is complex, with challenges that include how to:
• Connect IoT applications to DERs, boilers, transformers and a diverse multitude of other energy assets using a variety of communications protocols, including Modbus, BACnet and DNP3.
• Quickly develop and modify Energy IoT application proof of concepts (POCs), without having to build network and IoT infrastructure from the ground up.
• Scale Energy IoT applications from limited POCs to thousands of energy assets and customers located across the nation or even around the world.
• Prioritize and filter at the edge the massive amounts of data generated by thousands of energy assets, so they can minimize wireless carrier data transmission costs, optimize data transmission so it does not quickly exhaust IoT device batteries, even when using Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) technologies like LTE-M, and prevent their Energy IoT applications from being overwhelmed by a tsunami of data.
• Update and improve their Energy IoT applications over time by easily changing edge device rules to collect data and control energy assets and distributing these updates to thousands of devices.
• Keep data secure as it is generated by their energy assets and transmitted from these assets through various wireless networks to the cloud and back.
• Integrate data from their Energy IoT applications with other cloud-based applications (building management systems, billing systems, CRM systems), data sources (weather) and analytics tools for valuable, actionable insights.
New technologies, including LPWA networks and edge processing, are poised to enable massive scale and intelligence at the edge; however, energy companies and developers need a new solution to navigate the growing complexity and unite the cloud and the edge. A final decision on how to intelligently collect data from these devices can often only be made after they are deployed. Moreover, what data is needed, and when, will change over the life of many IoT applications. If energy companies do not have the ability to control and update their IoT devices’ data management and transmission rules, they are likely to find these devices running out of power sooner than expected, if battery powered, or unable to meet new business needs or requirements.
This challenge can be addressed with a new capability: distributed data orchestration. By providing a simpler, more flexible and more dynamic IoT, distributed data orchestration enables companies to orchestrate the flow of IoT data from the cloud to the edge and back, so they can make sure the right data is sent at the right time, with the right priority, to their right system of record. Octave, Sierra Wireless’s new device-to-cloud (D2C) data orchestration solution is being developed to address these challenges and to enable companies to accelerate the development of Energy IoT applications while maximizing their ROI by:
• Delivering built-in connectivity for energy assets, whether these assets are using modern or legacy communications protocols.
• Providing pre-built IoT infrastructure that includes tightly integrated edge devices, wireless connectivity and cloud services in a single solution, so companies can quickly develop Energy IoT applications POCs and then easily scale these applications to thousands of energy assets and customers.
• Enabling data orchestration API endpoints from the cloud for companies to monitor, control, update and maintain IoT edge devices connected to energy assets from a single pane of glass, streamlining device management while also allowing them to change edge device rules and configurations with business logic to update or enhance their Energy IoT applications over time.
• Allowing companies to prioritize, filter and orchestrate the processing of data by IoT devices connected to energy assets, so they can optimize the collection and transmission of data from these assets.
• Strengthening Energy IoT application security with a continuously updated managed security infrastructure that uses encryption and multi-factor authentication to ensure data is not lost or altered as it is transmitted from edge devices to the cloud and back.
• Including APIs and other cloud connectors that allow companies to integrate outside data streams into their Energy IoT applications or data from their Energy IoT applications into other cloud-based applications or analytics tools.
By simplifying the ability of companies to securely extract, orchestrate and act on data from when it is generated by energy assets to when it is transmitted to the cloud, Octave simplifies the development and commercialization of Energy IoT applications. With Octave, energy companies are empowered to realize the Energy IoT’s tremendous potential, with new demand response, energy efficiency optimization, predictive maintenance and other applications that maximize the value created by energy assets and minimize their environmental impact. In doing so, these Energy IoT applications can reduce energy costs, improve customer engagement, lower greenhouse gas emissions and increase energy reliability.
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