In a previous post we briefly discussed 3 ways that utilitiy and green energy companies are getting smarter with IoT but now I want to delve a little deeper into one important area which is asset management. Assets that are linked to IoT devices allow utility operators to see real-time conditions, predict usage spikes, and proactively schedule maintenance. And there’s underlying consumer and political pressure for utilities to strive for efficiency. Previously, utilities got by with a limited amount of information, but in order to meet customer demands and best manage services, they have struggled with turning the data they do have into actionable intelligence. This is where IoT comes in, especially within asset management.
And this shift to IoT isn’t a “next decade” endeavor. In the energy sector, the adoption of smart meters is on a torrid pace, with an estimated 925 million smart meter installations by 2020. Utilities will be best served by quickly embracing IoT so they can realize the cost savings of improved efficiency, which will be essential when managing renewables and the turmoil occurring in the industry.
A global survey of 200 execs in gas, water, and electric utilities noted 58% of the respondents have in place or will implement an IoT strategy for asset management and more than half relate that asset management’s importance has grown during the past twelve months.
Implementing Asset Monitoring
Utility firms are utilizing a range of IoT-enabled devices such as embedded cameras, tiny robots, and various sensors in order to understand the status of the asset network. Working in tandem, these IoT devices collect vibration data, flow rates, pressure, and temperature readings which provide instant snapshots of asset health and performance.
IoT is integral to realizing the “smart grid” where sensors help develop more intelligent networks that span different geographic areas. With this information at hand, operators can share peak loads in real time, greatly reducing the risk of grid problems. And over time the sophistication of these sensors will grow, with embedded software and tied-in analytics that provide an even deeper picture of asset health.
Fleet management is multiple-industry area impacted by IoT, as the hardware-intensive task of management a fleet of equipment is replaced by sensor-driven data. Utility companies utilize IoT within their fleets to better detect loss or fraud, and to enable faster response times to fix outages. Reducing outage times is a critical metric for utilities that are increasingly customer-focused. IoT metrics provide fleet managers with real-time data on how to best deploy fleet assets given the current situation.
Water companies utilize IoT throughout the chain, from treatment of water quality throughout the entire process from reservoir to tap, as well as leak detection and other problem identifiers. On the business side, companies are using IoT controlled smart irrigation or refined data-informed manufacturing processes which can alter water needs in real time.
Proactive Benefits of IoT Data
A considerable benefit of IoT within utility companies is the ability to proactively spot problems. Catching these issues early has a twofold benefit of reducing waste through efficiency and avoiding a poor customer experience. Predictive asset monitoring allows operators to find weak spots in their asset chain, so they can be replaced or fixed before any problems occur.
Energy firms already possess large amounts of data through their own systems, and the explosion of smart thermostats, connected appliances, and other similar devices. The trick is how to analyze this IoT data to streamline operations, retain customers, and stay profitable.
More intelligence into usage could lead to surge pricing during peak energy demands, so energy producers could receive automatic alerts to avoid certain energy usage behaviors. These are the type of proactive services that energy retailers are presenting in order to retain customers, which is increasingly important as more choice is introduced to an often monopolistic industry.