Water, Gas, Electric, Lighting – Smart Connections for Tomorrow’s Smart Cities

1 October 2018 | 2973 Shares

As an industry, IT is very fond of its buzzwords and phrases. When the media are talking about IT, the words and phrases which are currently in vogue are big data, IoT, AI, and robotics.

The first of these two, namely big data and the internet of things, are inextricably linked. As smart devices take up roles in our domestic settings and in the workplace, the amounts of data captured by this new generation of devices is set to grow exponentially. That’s where big data and its processing will come into its own in the next few years.

In a business setting, IoT devices are just one of the elements required for a fully-connected, digitized business. In industrial settings, in the modern office, and right across our utilities, a new generation of devices is beginning to change the way that business operates.

The IoT hardware is but one element of the technology, it is worth noting. From devices which monitor electricity generating machinery, to sensors on water supplies, to trackers and sensors in heavy plant machinery, to intelligent substation devices, the new generation of devices are ineffective as standalones.

Even technologically-enabled hardware which only communicates sporadically will need to use some form of communication network. This aspect of IoT (and IIoT, IoT’s industrial cousin) is the second strand in any IoT deployment which needs careful consideration by the enterprise.

Interconnections between devices and their controlling systems can range from the everyday, like Wi-Fi or ethernet/fiber cabling, through to variations on Bluetooth (4th gen, low power, etc.), LoRa connectivity, 4G LTE, P2MP (point to multipoint) or even mesh networking technology.

In general, the more common the communication protocol the cheaper it is to implement – off the shelf hardware keeps costs low. Conversely, the less ubiquitous the hardware and protocols used, the more secure (potentially) it is – proprietary systems are not generally as attractive a target to bad actors as ones which are used commonly.

The third strand in an IoT deployment is the controlling system which receives, processes, and collates data both from, and to, IoT devices.

Source: Shutterstock

There is also a new generation of start-up and growing companies which provides their own hardware, communication, control and monitoring solutions for internet of things deployments. Some of these solutions are potentially highly disruptive; innovative and ground-breaking, creators are producing devices and systems they hope will be breakthrough products.

Our readers’ interest ranges from the devices themselves, their deployment models, the networks on which they communicate, and the systems and software which process the ensuing data flows and, in some instances, act as controllers for the devices themselves.

Therefore, below are three companies whose revolutionary approaches to internet of things may be set to be game-changers.

SENSUS

There are three key elements that make IoT possible for utilities: the communication network, smart devices and software applications. Sensus provides solutions to implement all these elements, across every utility vertical.

IoT is all about data connectivity, and FlexNet, the private, point-to-multipoint network from Sensus, enables data to flow in all directions for real-time information and remote actions. The right devices, like the innovative meters and sensors that Sensus brings to market, ensure all that data is effectively captured. To make that raw information actionable for the utility and consumer, the Sensus Analytics offering aggregates, sorts and dispenses utility data to harness its power and create smart value at every level.

For utilities and municipalities, Sensus IoT solutions improve operational efficiencies almost immediately. Within every vertical, for example, IoT results in fewer truck rolls to perform manual tasks, ultimately reducing expenditures and non-revenue service. Plus, these solutions set the stage for improved customer engagement, interaction and response, which always impact revenue in a positive way.

Sensus has been deploying smart metering solutions powered by an IoT communications network for more than a decade, and their monitoring and control capabilities continue to expand at a rapid pace. Their IoT customers are gleaning the data needed to better manage their networks, improve efficiencies and increase the safety of their systems and communities.

To learn more about Sensus and its offerings for utility companies, click here

Source: Shutterstock

SOFTWARE AG

Software AG offers IoT solutions for utilities as part of a greater portfolio of services for that sector which enable IT transformation and business improvements.

Legacy systems of meter-to-cash processes have serious impacts on monitoring performance. Discrepancies between meter information and perceptions of use from the customer’s point of view often lead to irritated customer calls. Additionally, lack of insight into ongoing performance results in greater in working costs day-to-day, increased collection fees, a rise in charge-offs, and decreased earnings.

Software AG’s solution is its meter-to-cash process intelligence system, which is suitable even for complex heterogeneous environments. The platform allows the tools to monitor and manage process flows effectively. This reduces billing errors, reduces the requirements for working capital, and lowers the cost of collection. The knock-on effect is, of course, improved customer experience and satisfaction levels.

While modern utilities have millions of meters to monitor and data points to contend with, Software AG sees a unified system controlling smart meters as a way to enable active, end-to-end visibility and manageability.

By combining smart meters, CICS billing, and overall master data management, utilities can visualize data better, create proactive alerts for themselves and their customers, and instigate a process of ongoing monitoring over the entire infrastructure.

Source: Shutterstock

ITRON

Itron is a dedicated utilities infrastructure services company with particular interest in smart cities and building connected communities. Covering water, electricity, gas, and industrial internet of things, Itron is hoping to change energy and water resource use for the benefit of its customers, its customers in turn, and of course the planet’s ecosystem as a whole.

Itron produces smart meters, sensors, and other controlling and routing devices which cover the entire range of the supply and distribution system for utilities, from meter to grid.

For the utility supplier, outages can be minimized and thefts better detected, with proactive monitoring helping companies manage overall grid conditions.

The company’s Riva platform is a good example of a distributed intelligence grid, which combines edge analytics, command and control capabilities, and is based on open standards networks.

With over 160 million connected industrialized field devices in place, Itron’s history in this relatively short timespan of industrialized internet of things, is exemplary.

Its in-house Idea Labs is designed to drive industry innovation and is tasked with creating cutting-edge solutions for delivery to utilities verticals.

Its latest innovation is the Itron Solar Gate, which monitors the performance of solar panels and their associated inverters. It is of course, in renewable energy that many utilities see their future, and this type of technology is not viable without intelligent networks of smart devices and control systems.

*Some of these companies are commercial partners of TechHQ