Energy IoT Platforms Cut Complexity, Speed Up Deployments
“Complexity” may be an arguable concept, but anyone who’s been through an energy IoT implementation probably has a deeper understanding of the word than most. With mechanical and digital hardware to consider, and software and legacy systems to harness, developing an effective IoT-based energy management system is not a task for the timid.
Whether a utility or other power generating institution is contemplating a brand-new energy infrastructure or needs to upgrade and enhance existing systems, there are literally scores of decisions to make on the road to implementation. And in today’s environment, with consumer expectations of uninterruptible and personally manageable energy services, there is definitely a sense of urgency among first-time deployers and upgraders alike.
With pressure being exerted from all sides — customers, competitors, regulators and possibly stakeholders — utilities and institutional power producers are looking for a fast on-ramp to an efficient yet cost-conscious IoT-based energy management system. Rising to meet those needs, most vendors that supply energy-related IoT products and services are bundling both into platform packages that can drastically reduce the time it takes to become operational, while helping to mitigate complexity of dealing with numerous component vendors.
“It’s great that multiple vendors can do multiple things,” said Mohamed Shishani, Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure Power deployment leader, USA. “But the customer doesn’t want to deal with 10 or 15 vendors for their own type of version of an IoT platform.”
The Components of an Energy IoT Platform
A discussion of what comprises an energy IoT platform may border on the philosophical as both sellers and buyers of platform products or services are likely to have a variety of perspectives relative to their specific needs and current pain points. Of course, the vendor’s expertise and product portfolio play the biggest part in its platform definition. So while a hardware vendor may tilt its definition toward the physical infrastructure, a software provider is likely to see the hardware as a given and the software as the true platform.
A report published by IDC (IDC MarketScape: Worldwide Industrial IoT Platforms in Energy 2019 Vendor Assessment, June 2019) includes the research firm’s definition that lists the characteristics of an IoT energy platform. The detailed definition is software-centric, and calls for support for basic industrial IoT protocols such as the Open Platform Communications (OPC) Unified Architecture, advanced analytics, built-in security facilities and APIs that allow access to data, among other capabilities.
IBM’s Utilities Industry Leader Terry Saunders has a somewhat different outlook on an energy IoT platform with a greater focus on the customer’s requirements and goals.
“My perspective is one that helps to fuel the value proposition for utilities around asset reliability and availability,” said Saunders. His platform concept also goes beyond just hardware and software to embrace cloud-based resources. “We have a variety of on-ramps that help to support that and, obviously part of that with IoT is cloud services.”
Eduardo Estelles, chief executive officer and technical director of Glasgow, Scotland-based Logic Energy Ltd., suggests that a bespoke platform will likely provide the best fit. “I do not think there’s an off-the-shelf option,” wrote Estelles in an email. “In my experience always there’s some level of customization, otherwise you just have a data logger.”