Digital Inclusion as a driver of economic growth in South Africa

The far-reaching impact of the Internet since its introduction cannot be denied. It enabled the introduction of a myriad of digital devices that have since progressed society in numerous ways; some anticipated and others not. That progression has enabled many challenges to be overcome while at the same time creating new challenges, like the Digital …

The far-reaching impact of the Internet since its introduction cannot be denied. It enabled the introduction of a myriad of digital devices that have since progressed society in numerous ways; some anticipated and others not. That progression has enabled many challenges to be overcome while at the same time creating new challenges, like the Digital Divide previously written about by my colleague. When used correctly digital inclusion can drive economic growth. Take South Africa, for example:

In South African President Ramaphosa’s recent State of the Nation Address, he emphasized that the prioritization of education and the development of skills must be at the center of the country’s efforts to achieve higher and more equitable growth, draw young people into employment and prepare the country for the digital age. The president noted that over the next six years the government will provide a tablet device with digital workbooks and textbooks to every school child, starting with those schools that have been historically most disadvantaged and are located in the poorest communities, including multigrade, multiphase, farm and rural schools.

Further, President Ramaphosa recognized that small businesses play a vital role in stimulating economic activity and employment, and in advancing broad-based empowerment. As such, the government of South Africa will be expanding its small business incubation program to provide entrepreneurs with physical space, infrastructure and shared services, access to specialized knowledge, market linkages, training in new technology and access to finance. As part of the expansion program, township digital hubs will be established in four provinces with more to follow. I previously wrote about such a hub when discussing Mzansi Digital Republic’s work in my post on connected societies.

As other South African citizens like myself ponder the President’s remarks, for me, the Delta Smart Grid Network™ comes to mind as a solution to support the efforts outlined above. It fills in the gaps left by current telecommunications providers through the building of a community-wide Wi-Fi infrastructure while at the same time addressing some of the electricity challenges facing the country today.

What shaped the industry in 2018?

In January, I shared Delta’s Industry Outlook for 2018 noting changes and innovations that we expected to see shaping our industry. In that post, I wrote about how: The use of asset performance management will continue to grow. Solutions for grid and utility cybersecurity will be top of mind. Emerging technologies like AR will continue …

In January, I shared Delta’s Industry Outlook for 2018 noting changes and innovations that we expected to see shaping our industry. In that post, I wrote about how:

  • The use of asset performance management will continue to grow.
  • Solutions for grid and utility cybersecurity will be top of mind.
  • Emerging technologies like AR will continue to shape the workforce.
  • There will be an expansion of Wi-Fi and a greater proliferation of cloud-based networks.

Looking back on the year, let’s review how these key outlooks are driving the utility industry.

 

Asset performance management
As identified in T&D World’s recent article, Asset Performance Management Comes of Age, “Utilities that have invested in digitizing their grid have positioned themselves to reap significant rewards as a result.” Asset performance management will enable a utility to rationally prioritize capital planning for aging asset replacement.

Further, collaborations like the recent one between Siemens and Bentley Systems show how those in the utility industry can benefit from asset performance management and how APM may evolve to include predictive analytics, necessary for pre-emptive asset actions, in addition to monitoring current performance.

 

Cybersecurity
Cybersecurity has remained top-of-mind, but as noted in a recent Smart Energy International article, a persistent attacker will eventually breach critical control systems. The article goes on to discuss the rising threats in utility cybersecurity and offers these important notes:

  1. Insist on systems that require more than a promise and a “handshake.”
  2. Be dynamic rather than static or reactive regarding cybersecurity.
  3. Cybersecurity can always be improved.

At Delta, we’re aligned with these viewpoints and that’s why we’ve made sure our Delta Smart Grid Network (DSGN) conforms with the latest security protocols to protect network access and data integrity, from the point of device registration through the catalog and retention of cloud-based storage.

 

Augmented Reality
According to ABI Research, total AR market revenues for the energy and utilities industry are expected to grow to US$18 billion by 2022, with platform and licensing, and smart glasses hardware comprising the majority.

Further, a recent Electric Light & Power article, Today’s Reality, Augmented Reality: Improving Field Worker Efficiency, Security and Quality, notes the following:

The maturing and integration of smart glasses, wireless communication, mobile devices and augmented reality software is opening up new solutions to age-old problems that utility operations managers and their field crews encounter every day, such as:

  • An expansive set of field assets that make it difficult for field technicians to be experts with all equipment, increasing maintenance time and exposing potential safety challenges.
  • Lack of time and qualified inspectors to complete the number of required inspections.
  • Safety risks due to lack of experience with the broad array of tools and assets.
  • Pressure to reduce costs while improving restoration times.
  • Inability to easily record field work for further evaluation, inspection, and training.
  • Loss of institutional knowledge due to retirements or attrition.

We at Delta embraced this technology through the development of our PowerVISR™ hardware.  We strongly believe that customer-centric, future hardware platforms will follow this increasing trend for augmented reality integration.  You may read more about how AR is solving utility issues, here.

 

Wi-Fi and cloud-based networks
According to the Wi-Fi Alliance, “Wi-Fi is the most commonly used wireless communications technology; the primary medium for global internet traffic; a driver of nearly $2 trillion in global economic value; and growing, with 3 billion devices shipping in 2018 and 9 billion devices in use.”

Additionally, through Wi-Fi Offload mobile operators are able to relieve the congested mobile data networks with additional capacity from unlicensed Wi-Fi spectrum. This allows them to facilitate combined carrier-class Wi-Fi and mobile services and profit from offering customers a vast service improvement with convenient ‘always-on’ data connectivity.

 

Delta’s technology and business model aggressively supports all three noted principles; Wi-Fi proliferation, Wi-Fi offload and cloud-based networks. Our unique Wi-Fi enabled Delta Smart Grid Network unleashes the power of a truly connected smart city, embracing the most commonly used wireless communications technology, while delivering Internet wherever there is power.

Connected Societies

We know that access to the internet has the capability to economically propel communities around the world, as my colleagues previously shared regarding emerging markets and rural America. But how do we take that access and convert it from individual use to a truly connected society? The community in Delft, South Africa provides us with …

We know that access to the internet has the capability to economically propel communities around the world, as my colleagues previously shared regarding emerging markets and rural America. But how do we take that access and convert it from individual use to a truly connected society? The community in Delft, South Africa provides us with an example.

The Delft government and the Mzansi Digital Republic (MDR) are working to implement public Wi-Fi to boost the local economy. MDR’s aim is to create digital citizens with the vision of unlocking the knowledge-based economy. To do that, they consider a multi-faceted approach to power, IoT infrastructure and internet access, connected devices, online community, e-commerce, and online support. Through their disruptive model of realigning the value chain of consumption and actualizing new opportunities for business, employment and social engagement, MDR is connecting the society in Delft in ways that haven’t been done before. As a result, local tech businesses have grown, generating local employment, facilitating digital commerce and ushering in local economic empowerment, thereby preventing a large amount of money from trickling out of the community.

In general, connected societies like the one developing in Delft will open opportunities for more collective action in regards to single-issue movements, while open government initiatives and access to public sector data will lead to more transparency and citizen-focused public services. The critical backbone to a connected society is a robust communications infrastructure that can support the required level of community connectivity. The Delta Smart Grid Network comes to mind as a solution—it fills in the gaps left by current telecommunications providers through the building of a community-wide Wi-Fi infrastructure.

Cybersecurity for the Next Generation Smart Grid

Increased connectivity enabled by the smart grid is driving significant benefits in the form of improved quality of service and operational efficiencies, but it’s also opening up the doors for greater cybersecurity risks for utilities. Those risks are increasingly top of mind for utility executives around the world. In fact, according to a recent report …

Increased connectivity enabled by the smart grid is driving significant benefits in the form of improved quality of service and operational efficiencies, but it’s also opening up the doors for greater cybersecurity risks for utilities.

Those risks are increasingly top of mind for utility executives around the world. In fact, according to a recent report from Accenture, almost two-thirds (63 percent) of utility executives believe their country faces at least a moderate risk of electricity supply interruption from a cyber attack on electric distribution grids in the next five years. This figure rises to 76 percent for North American utility executives alone.

In this modern day digital landscape, ensuring full security and resiliency of the smart grid is a growing challenge – particularly given the explosion of the Internet of Things (IoT) and the wide variety of devices and products that are now vulnerable to attackers. At the same time, utilities require technologies that support an increasing variety of electrical services and applications, but many of those technologies – such as 802.15.4g, Zigbee (6LoWPAN), and Broadband over Power Line (BPL) – have latency issues, limited scalability, in some cases low bandwidth and other limitations, making them difficult to administer, monitor and maintain.

Whether it’s interruptions to the power supply from cyberattacks, or a physical threat to the distribution grid, only 6 percent of utility executives feel extremely well-prepared when it comes to restoring normal grid operations following a cyberattack. So, how can utilities boost their confidence and ensure their security measures are meeting the needs of the rapidly-changing digital landscape and the next generation smart grid? To maximize the full capability of the grid, utilities must invest in effective response and recovery capabilities, as well as the overall resilience of the grid.

For example, the Delta Smart Grid Network (DSGN™), with its Wi-Fi-based WWAN mesh network, brings real-time data capability and active IoT device integration wherever there is electricity. The network provides multiple-level security with device and end-point MAC ID authentication, WPA2 password protection and encrypted cloud storage with SSL certificate service access, providing industry-leading device and Wi-Fi-centric protection.

As the combination of physical and cyber threats continues to grow, we at Delta are leading the charge to prepare utilities to strengthen their resiliency and bolster their responsiveness with the next generation smart grid.

Click here to learn more about the DSGN™, and share your thoughts and questions with us here.

Charting a Course for the Next Generation Smart Grid

More than a century of development has established the foundation for a safe and reliable electric grid. But, our increasingly digital landscape and world of connected devices has demanded even further innovation to reach that next generation of the grid: the smart grid. So, while we are empowered more than ever before with the data …

More than a century of development has established the foundation for a safe and reliable electric grid. But, our increasingly digital landscape and world of connected devices has demanded even further innovation to reach that next generation of the grid: the smart grid. So, while we are empowered more than ever before with the data and knowledge to improve the world around us, outdated energy infrastructure and old technologies are essentially holding the world back.

Advancement to the next generation smart grid is a critical next step for our current systems to better communicate and work together efficiently. That means establishing a reliable and stable communications network that leverages analytics while also providing a wireless, secure and mesh-enabled environment.

That’s where Delta comes in, and we’re already proving to be a disruptor in the industry. I founded this company fully aware of some of the current challenges facing the energy sector, but confident that great strides could be made to channel some of these exciting innovations happening all around us in this digital age – and we’ve done just that.

With our Delta Smart Grid Network (DSGN™), we are making those great strides and charting a new course for the next generation smart grid. Not only are we providing utilities with the tools needed to keep pace, but our technology can bring connectivity to millions around the world—especially those in developing countries who need it most.

That’s a significant motivator for us here at Delta and one of several reasons why we are passionate about what we do. The implementation of ground-breaking technologies like ours can empower underserved populations to better their future, and allow those emerging markets to grow and prosper.

Together with our customers, we are realizing the potential of a smarter grid and empowering them to tap into the innovation opportunities that surround us. In doing so, we see a bright future for utility operations and each of the communities that they serve.

Rethinking wireless networks for our IoT-enabled future

What if IoT-enabled devices could communicate with each other on the same Wi-Fi network without the need for additional infrastructure? For global communities, businesses and individuals, this is just one of the endless opportunities for this multi-billion-dollar market of innovative and connected products. In fact, the number of connected devices is expected to reach 24 …

What if IoT-enabled devices could communicate with each other on the same Wi-Fi network without the need for additional infrastructure?

For global communities, businesses and individuals, this is just one of the endless opportunities for this multi-billion-dollar market of innovative and connected products. In fact, the number of connected devices is expected to reach 24 billion by 2020, with the total of mobile connected devices reaching 12 billion.

In particular, the rapidly expanding Internet of Things (IoT) is serving to shape the functionality and the future of the smart grid, providing utilities with real-time, actionable data and visibility into the operation of their systems. Utilities are able to improve customer engagement, and also empower their customers to make more informed choices about their energy usage to help them save money and optimize the “automation” of their homes.

Yet, the challenge with the smart grid is that it requires specific technologies that support a broad variety of electrical services and applications. And technologies currently in use, such as 802.15.4g, Zigbee (6LoWPAN), and Broadband over Power Line (BPL), are holding back progress given their latency issues, limited scalability, and in some cases low bandwidth. To enable a true IoT architecture, it is critical to construct a stable and reliable communications network, one which leverages utility analytics while also providing a wireless, scalable, secure and mesh-enabled environment compatible with current consumer-facing technologies.

This mesh network needs to enable the seamless integration of the growing influx of Wi-Fi enabled products – such as those integral to smart city infrastructure, like smart street lighting. And now that there are more mobile devices on the planet than people, this concept becomes even more important when considering the possibility to securely allow personal Web-connected mobile devices to engage with the mesh network.

At Delta we’re rethinking wireless networks for the IoT-enabled future. Our Delta Smart Grid Network (DSGN™) utilizes a Wi-Fi-based WWAN (wireless wide area network) mesh with advanced power metering hardware and software, delivering electrical distribution monitoring and pioneering analytics within a robust and secure, cloud-based network.

Delta’s solution builds out the Wi-Fi network – essentially creating a large geographical hot-spot. Utilities are able to deliver actionable data back to their customers, utilizing the customer’s digital device of choice and accessing the same wireless mesh network. Given the rapid growth of the IoT and the wide variety of consumer-based, Wi-Fi home-automation products now on the market, this capability is compelling and critical.

The application of this Wi-Fi-centric smart grid strategy will empower utilities and their customers with more collaborative, efficient local energy management, and ensure they are equipped for whatever the future for IoT may hold.

The Digital Divide: How the Internet can empower and propel emerging markets

Since the Internet’s inception decades ago, its far-reaching impact on the world is undeniable. More than 3.7 billion people are now connected around the globe, which has strengthened the flow of information, increased communication, and enabled the growth and success of countless enterprises and industries. Despite this undeniable impact, a large percentage of the world …

Since the Internet’s inception decades ago, its far-reaching impact on the world is undeniable. More than 3.7 billion people are now connected around the globe, which has strengthened the flow of information, increased communication, and enabled the growth and success of countless enterprises and industries.

Despite this undeniable impact, a large percentage of the world still does not have access to the Internet, especially in developing countries. This lack of Internet connectivity inhibits individuals and organizations from learning, growing and developing their digital economies, ultimately creating a deep divide between urban centers and rural districts.  In short, many believe that this lack of connectivity may even slow the economic growth in some developing regions.

The second most populated country in the world, India, has only about 30 percent of its population Internet connected. At the same time, it provides an example of how expanding Internet access helps to elevate both individuals and a country as a whole.

In 2001, only seven million people in India were connected to the Internet. Today, the country has over 391 million users. Some believe that this increase in Internet availability has allowed India’s small businesses to realize greater economic achievements. For example, doctors are able to expand the scope of their geographical activities, and students are able to gain access to otherwise unattainable information.  Internet access is also enabling visually and physically challenged students at the Balagangadharanatha Swamiji Blind Residential School in India to expand their educational opportunities. In fact, one student has been so inspired by the ability to learn more through the Internet that he’s now building an app that can help other blind people with health-related information.

It’s a similar story in South Africa, where Internet access is improving, but remains well behind the global standard. Approximately 16 percent of the world’s population lives in Africa, but the Internet serves only about 9 percent of that population.

The roll out of public Wi-Fi in Delft, South Africa is another critical example of how increasing access to the Internet can open up opportunities for many. The expansion of public Wi-Fi has enabled local tech businesses to create jobs in the community, thereby boosting the economy and stemming the outflow of residents who were leaving the area.

Fortunately, new technologies can bring about a resolution to a lack of Internet access worldwide and allow emerging markets like India and South Africa to grow and prosper.

At Delta, we understand the importance of increasing access to the Internet to support these underserved populations through our Delta Smart Grid Network (DSGN™) – a singular, standardized, and scalable network that enables these communities to not only optimize power delivery, but also build out a Wi-Fi network, essentially creating a large hot-spot.

Through this critical Internet access, we are providing the opportunity for these communities to expand education, develop new enterprises and, ultimately flourish.