Smart city executions need centralized infrastructure

The global trend toward smart cities continues to rise. The benefits of incorporating the Internet of Things (IoT) into city-wide infrastructure are widely agreed. The best path to converting a city into a smart city though, is more variable. Solution providers presenting different strategies, approaches and techniques vie for the attention of city decision-makers. One …

The global trend toward smart cities continues to rise. The benefits of incorporating the Internet of Things (IoT) into city-wide infrastructure are widely agreed. The best path to converting a city into a smart city though, is more variable. Solution providers presenting different strategies, approaches and techniques vie for the attention of city decision-makers. One thing they all have in common, is the importance of city-wide network to support the IoT devices that make a city smarter.

Only with a singular, scalable network that is not bandwidth limited to form the backbone, will a smart city execution truly yield its highest potential. Being able to use different types of electronic data collection sensors to supply information then used to manage assets and resources efficiently is critical. With a singular network, like the Delta Smart Grid Network, it’s possible.

Delta’s solution taps the same strategy as today’s smart phones which innovatively joined multiple purposeful products into one exceptionally capable device—it converges smart grid infrastructure, Wi-Fi mesh networking and consumer-facing digital devices into a singular, standardized and centralized smart city network solution. This resulting network becomes the communications infrastructure by which all IoT smart city devices can connect. Thus, opening the door for an efficient and effective smart city solution.

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.

Augmented Reality for Electrical Utilities

A utility field technician’s day is filled with frequent stopping and starting to access and assess the distribution system—and the utility bears the burden of what happens when resources get stretched too thin. How can it make sure that the right data is available to the right person, in the right format and at the …

A utility field technician’s day is filled with frequent stopping and starting to access and assess the distribution system—and the utility bears the burden of what happens when resources get stretched too thin. How can it make sure that the right data is available to the right person, in the right format and at the right time and place in order for the insights from that data to provide practical value? One way is to bring augmented reality (AR) tools to the utility’s field force. By equipping field personnel with AR tools, utilities can streamline things like asset health assessments, service documentation review, repair requirement summaries, repair qualification activities, work order prioritization, location routing and more.

One example of using AR to improve efficiencies is demonstrated in a 2017 proof of concept between the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and Duke Energy which tested the use of augmented reality in assessing storm damage. In the project, field workers wore a heads-up display (HUD) units incorporating a monocular screen that provided key information to keep assessments accurate and consistent. This screen overlaid information on the user’s field of view, enhancing their capability to real-time visualize actionable date on that subject matter at hand. The field crews were very positive about their experience and Duke Energy calculated that for a typical, 4-day outage impacting 250,000 customers, using AR would save around 12 hours of restoration time—or $8.25M for customers with an average power consumption of 900kWh per month.

Another way AR could be used is for general servicing and repair. Augmented reality would be able to overlay key performance data into the field of vision for a service technician allowing him or her to immediately assess the health of an asset. For example, being able to see the load, temperature and oil level of a transformer simply by looking up at it with an AR device would expedite identification of any issues. This AR capability would instantly allow a field technician to prioritize service actions against multiple assets within their field of view, all without opening, powering and inquiring using traditional keyboard centric field devices.

It’s important to note, according to EPRI’s 2018 literature review of human factors issues in the Electric Power Industry, there is still a shortage of human factors and occupational safety research for AR devices. Therefore, guidelines for the appropriate amount of time for safe and effective AR usage are lacking. This being true, as the technology progresses and electric utilities continue to experiment with using it more information will become available and, similar to other adjacent markets, we anticipate pick-up in adoption of this exciting user interface methodology.

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.

Distributed Energy Resources

Distributed Energy Resources (DER) are small, grid-connected devices that locally generate and store electricity. Unlike conventional power stations that require electricity to be transmitted over long distances, DER systems are located close to the load they serve (often behind the meter) and are more modular and flexible. Increasingly operated in the context of a microgrid, …

Distributed Energy Resources (DER) are small, grid-connected devices that locally generate and store electricity. Unlike conventional power stations that require electricity to be transmitted over long distances, DER systems are located close to the load they serve (often behind the meter) and are more modular and flexible. Increasingly operated in the context of a microgrid, DER may lower environmental impacts and improve the security of electrical supply.

As with everything, DER pose both pros and cons. From a benefit standpoint, potential cost savings to customers, a reduction in emissions when moving away from traditionally-used fossil fuels, and greater control by consumers of their own power lead the list. While the main challenge includes reductions in utility revenue, as the amount of electricity distributed by power plants lessens while the plants’ operating utilities still must invest in the infrastructure to maintain the grid.

As DER becomes a more significant percentage of the energy supply, reliable communications will be required to monitor and effectively use these resources. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, unlike today’s one-directional system, the energy flow to accommodate DER will be multi-directional (i.e. utility to home, home to utility, home to home) making effective communications technologies and analytical systems critical in these applications. Some experts have suggested that AMI systems currently in development will be able to support the integration of DER into the grid, for instance through the use of ZigBee or other Home Area Network (HAN) technologies. However, we know these technologies to be limiting in certain capacities.

An alternative approach to communications for DER is to incorporate them into the Delta Smart Grid Network (DSGN). As an advanced smart grid and analytics hardware/software solution that is more inclusive and scalable than competing systems, the DSGN provides unparalleled data collection and delivery opportunities that make it possible to deliver and receive user data wherever there is electricity. The bi-directional nature of the DSGN™ enables the incorporation of DER while maximizing network capabilities and providing broadband internet access to consumers of electricity.

Industry Outlook for 2018

With the start of an exciting New Year, what changes and innovations can we expect to see shaping our industry? Let’s review some of our key outlooks and what we’re projecting will drive utilities in 2018: Use of asset performance management will continue to grow We saw the use of asset performance management growing in …

With the start of an exciting New Year, what changes and innovations can we expect to see shaping our industry? Let’s review some of our key outlooks and what we’re projecting will drive utilities in 2018:

Use of asset performance management will continue to grow
We saw the use of asset performance management growing in 2017, and that will only continue into 2018. The majority of utilities will be using some form of APM innovations and tools to manage their critical operational assets to help improve operational performance – as well as their customer’s experience. In fact, a recent IDC report, “IDC FutureScape: Worldwide Utilities 2018 Predictions” echoes this, indicating that as many as 75 percent of gas, water, and electric utilities will have implemented APM by 2019.

Solutions for grid and utility cybersecurity will be top of mind
With the explosion of the Internet of Things (IoT) and the wide variety of devices and products that are now vulnerable to cyber-attacks, cybersecurity was increasingly a topic of concern for utilities in 2017. A report from Accenture, “Outsmarting Grid Security Threats,” showed that 76 percent of North American 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. That focus will only grow in 2018, with utilities modifying their approaches to security to include both cybersecurity and physical security solutions, as well as privacy and data protection. Deloitte’s latest “2018 outlook on power and utilities” indicates this as well, with utilities increasingly working together and with the U.S. government to detect, prevent, and prepare for these risks.

Emerging technologies like AR will continue to shape the workforce
“Big data” has been the buzz word for utilities for some time now, but the next step moving into 2018 will be making that data available to the right people at the right time using new, emerging and immersive technologies. Augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and even mixed reality (MR) will start to play a more important role in the utility landscape, especially from a safety, speed and efficiency perspective. This article in POWERGRID International provides a key use case in the situation of a utility responding to an outage with a professional “on the ground” at that location. The lineman would be able to use a mobile tablet to capture images of the damaged equipment and, with AR, an overlay of data would show everything from product number to maintenance history. This capability will help utilities to expedite repairs and restore power more quickly than the typical manual response.

Expansion of Wi-Fi and the greater proliferation of cloud-based networks
Many of us are accustomed to the regular advancement of Wi-Fi technology in our consumer lives. With 2018 we’ll see a continued advance in enterprise Wi-Fi and industrial applications. The focus will be reviewing and, in some cases, implementing the latest IEEE protocol, which includes MU-MIMO, or multi-user multiple-input, multiple-output technology, and 802.11ac. Furthermore, we’ll continue to see a shift toward cloud-based networks that can reduce operating expenses and improve reliability and availability. This article in Network World further forecasts the specifications and expected trends in networking.

Readers, do you agree with some of these outlooks for 2018? Share your thoughts and questions with us here.

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.

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.