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Smart grid initiatives: it's all about ecosystem digitization

Smart grid initiatives: it's all about ecosystem digitization

By Christophe flaux - August 04, 2015

The smart grid not only converts passive energy users into "prosumers", it transforms the energy industry's traditional top-down business model into a circular economy. The value chain is compressed; energy grid flow management is distributed between all stakeholders and becomes real-time. This is requires continuous, reliable data exchange and processing.

From the Internet of Things to the Internet of Everything

The transformation of the energy sector may appear perplexing at first sight. In fact, this (r)evolution is positive for, as in all activities, good information makes for good decisions.
Today the behavioral trends of individuals and organizations reveal a quest for efficiency in everything they do. It is becoming crucial to base decisions on an uninterrupted supply of information as exhaustive and reliable as possible. The feasibility of streams of detailed binary information is driving new services such as e-health, connected objects and vehicles, and smart heating. In the former analog world data came from a limited number of sensors, but in the new digital era it will be possible to model in fine detail every action and situation. As we move towards increasing automation (the Internet of Things), we manage our behavior, situations and information streams via computers, tablets and telephones (the Internet of Everything).
The energy industry too will benefit from this new paradigm: energy management and usage efficiency will be based on distributed information of proven reliability.

Performance depends on data transmission and processing

Connected objects are a new and promising market; we can expect to see 80 billion communicating devices worldwide by the year 2020. Telecom operators must seize this opportunity and avoid a repetition of the present scenario which has cost them $23 Bn in lost income poached by OTT players (1). 
As every gesture and event become "digitizable", a gigantic volume of data will be collected via very high-speed IT and telecoms infrastructures, then stored and aggregated on any available terminal (PC, smartphone, tablet).
The smart home, smart heating and water management will be possible thanks to the presence and power of set top boxes deployed by telcos. This need for data collection and transmission will be an additional incentive for public authorities to promote the deployment of Very High Broadband.

No smart grid without smart data management

Analytical sciences will be essential to exploit all this data optimally. Such analysis is a continuous learning process, so the first entrants will acquire the greatest competence and earn first-mover advantages, as always in markets driven by innovation. To succeed it will be necessary to take into account local regulatory specificities in terms of privacy protection and data confidentiality, which is one reason for partnering with credible regional players.
Service providers can propose "as a Service" (XaaS) type services providing analytical solutions to meet the needs of both energy utilities and public authorities, complementing them with m-commerce apps and e-administration systems.

Data for the use of everyone

This is where the revolution really lies! With the Internet of Everything we not only collect data from numerous information sources, but above all we process them and communicate the results to anyone who wishes to optimize their energy efficiency. Whether to comply with the regulations or simply for reasons of mutual advantage, the post-processed data are made available to energy producers, distributors and transporters (2), to the consumers who generated the raw data, and to public services in view of their probable regulation role. Data must be anonymized and made secure before generating indicators that can be exploited by energy grid stakeholders - which today means everybody!

Energy grid: from parcel management to community management

Involving the "prosumer" in his connected home in public smart grid initiatives opens opportunities within a circular economy that includes smart building, smart districts and smart city projects.
Looking beyond the traditional energy producers, distributors and regulators, today we observe a meshed network of contributors transforming the traditional top-down business model into a more horizontal one based on transversality and interconnection in which every decision is both individual and collective, and above taken in real time.
Efficiency will of course necessitate much automation; machine-to-machine (M2M) technologies and automation processes will become more important in our daily lives. Leaving aside models and regulations, individuals and enterprises are free to act as they like, provided this is for the common good. ICT systems therefore serve not only to allow objects to interact, but also to provide data for individuals and business managers to underpin their reasoned decisions on energy production, transmission and consumption.
There is no longer any predefined master/slave schema but rather a complex ICT environment using dedicated applications to serve the interests of the community as a whole. Public services and private companies will no longer focus on infrastructure build and run, but rather "managed services" with which they will need assistance. Telecoms operators appear as the ideal partner, given their broad expertise in ICT and telecommunications architectures using all technologies and in all types of environment.
Above all, they will prove invaluable inasmuch as they can relieve energy companies of the burdensome tasks of data collection, transmission and processing, and then deliver information for immediate use along with the tools needed to make their customer's job easier.


(1) Source: Ovum. Users switching to OTT applications, such as Whats’App as an alternative to SMS, have cost telcos $23 Bn
(2) Transport Network Managers (TNM) and Distribution Network Managers (DNM).