Energy Asset Performance Management to Take on Automation
“It’s kind of an interesting idea because it’s always been very hard to map all of those pieces together,” said Feblowitz. “We kind of went through this trend of data lakes, but there still needs to be some kind of contextual framework before you can actually feed that data into asset performance management to be able to make it useful.”
Another APM offshoot is operational safety. Power generation, like many other industries, can be a perilous endeavor, so anything a utility can do to enhance safe operation of its facilities is clearly beneficial.
“From a safety perspective,” noted Navigant’s Strother, “if they know that something is going to fail” safety efforts can be enhanced. “If there’s a sensor or a monitor or an IoT gadget that can sense danger or fire or temperature or anything that’s potentially dangerous to workers and/or equipment, that’s a big driver.”
Customization and Cloud
There’s no one-size-fits-all for IoT-based energy asset performance management tools, so inevitably an implementation will require some degree of customization. Basic issues like the number and types of installed sensors and the equipment itself figure into the customization equation, as well as the sophistication of the APM tool along with any out-of-the-ordinary customer requirements.
“The majority of asset models can be leveraged out of the box,” said GE’s Ahmad, “but the rest need customization, so we need to understand the protocols of each component.”
Ahmad noted that there are certain conditions that can increase the complexity of customization. “Devices need to talk to each other and once they talk, they have to translate data — those are the critical touch points. It gets more complicated when devices need to talk to each other.”
When device-to-device communication is required, Ahmad said that cloud services can be helpful in easing that type of integration.
Navigant’s Strother noted that the operational mix of a utility — whether it’s involved in generation, transmission or generation, or all three — may be a factor in the degree of customization required.
“There’s probably a baseline of hardware and software and maybe services that would fit a vertical like a utility, but likely it’s going to have some customization,” said Strother. And as utilities grow larger their APM customization needs are likely to grow as well.
“The different assets and the space, the footprint of your grid, can be very different from one state or region to the next,” Strother added.
The Future of IoT Energy APM
Leveraging contemporary techs such as AI, machine learning and cloud-based services, will steer the future of asset performance management.
GE’s Ahmad sees both the software and hardware trending in that direction to bring significantly more automation to the market.
“That’s where the IoT market is headed,” said Ahmad, “making sensors more intelligent.” That, in turn, he said will help eventually “get to an area were everything can be done in an automated fashion.”
Consultant Feblowitz has a somewhat different perspective, while acknowledging the economic benefits of APM systems ability to anticipate costly potential failures.
“There are all these isolated incidents of being able to identify these ‘saves,’” Feblowitz said. “But I think that what industry really wants to see to get to greater adoption is more widespread, we implemented this platform and in the course of two years we had a return on investment of X.” Those types of real-world experiences would give APM and its future development a boost.