Global organisations storm ahead with IoT implementations but challenges persist

by Phil Beecher, President, The Wi-SUN Alliance

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With just a few days to go before the DistribuTECH conference and exhibition opens its doors to visitors from around the global, the Wi-SUN Alliance is putting the final touches in place to greet members, partners and guests to its booth no. 2861. Please do come along to say hello and find out more about our new industry research report ‘The Rise of the Internet of Things’.

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The Internet of Things (IoT) has the power and potential to transform businesses and change the lives of citizens. It’s already happening around the world — from Birmingham to Bangalore and from New York to New South Wales. But just how fast is this digital transformation happening, what’s driving it, and where are the main challenges for organizations in utilities, smart cities and other industrial markets? That’s exactly what we set out to discover with this piece of research compiled from interviews with IT decision makers in the UK, US, Denmark and Sweden.

It reveals that IoT implementation is happening further and faster than perhaps many imagine: over half (51%) of those investing have already fully implemented an IoT strategy.

Driving success

This is an impressive vote of confidence in IoT — with sectors including oil and gas (75%), technology (59%) and energy and utilities (57%) seeing even greater numbers of organizations with fully implemented strategies.

But just why is IoT becoming so popular? The key drivers seem to be improving citizen safety and quality of life (47%), creating business efficiencies (42%) and improving the reliability of systems (41%).

Some 99% of IT decision makers say they are already seeing some clear benefits — most notably business efficiencies (54%), but also improvements to the customer experience (49%), collaboration (48%), reduced costs (45%) and faster time-to-market (40%).

Struggling with IoT

However, almost all (90%) respondents claim to have struggled with these projects.

Given the increase of real-world IoT-related cyber threats in the news, it’s perhaps not surprising that security is by far the biggest concern. With power stations being shut down by hackers in the Ukraine and Russian agents attacking the UK’s critical infrastructure, these are very real concerns.

But they’re not insurmountable, as long as we aim for enterprise-grade security across all IoT networks. That’s why we as Wi-SUN ensure devices are upgradable over-the-air to stay protected at all times, and are rendered unable to connect if the firmware has been replaced by an unauthorized third party. Other security controls enforced by the Wi-SUN Alliance include strong encryption and authentication of all network traffic, and frequency-hopping capabilities to combat eavesdropping and signal jamming. It’s the kind of multi-layered protection that IT leaders told us they now demand for smart cities (50%) and smart utilities (44%).

Aside from security, IT decision makers say they also encountered challenges around obtaining funding and getting leadership to support projects (both 32%). This illustrates the continuing need for IT bosses to communicate with the Board in language it understands, perhaps by sharing some of the many real-world examples that exist to show the value of IoT to the organisation.

Support for standards

The good news is that our research reveals strong support for open industry standards of the sort the Wi-SUN Alliance is promoting to drive IoT success across all industries. Over half say standardization is what they are looking for when evaluating these technologies. Other key criteria included network topology (58%) and communications performance (53%).

It’s heartening to see respondents so advanced in their planning and understanding of networking — with most (53%) favouring a combination of star- and mesh-based networks. We’re also glad to see IT bosses prioritizing latency and bandwidth; another area where Wi-SUN can help organizations’ IoT implementations.

We are delighted that IT decision makers are most likely to be familiar with Wi-SUN (56%) over other network technologies. It made us proud of the work we are doing and continue to do.

We continue to forge ahead with new standards, incorporating the latest technical innovations whilst crucially ensuring backwards compatibility for organizations. And we will continue our efforts to improve education and awareness in the industry, especially in areas like security where concerns are holding back deployments.

We’ve come a long way in a short space of time, but there’s still plenty of work to be done.

DistribuTECH takes place on January 23-25 2018 at the Henry B Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio, Texas. Visitors to the Wi-SUN booth no. 2861 can hear more about the progress made with the Field Area Network (FAN) Profile and Certification Program as we continue to work rigorously towards the introduction of FAN Certified products later this year. Now is the time to get on board to learn what it takes to make sure your products are compliant. 

Wi-SUN will also be co-hosting a ‘lunch and learn’ event with security partner GlobalSign on Weds January 24, to explain new methods and technology available for end-to-end wireless security for utilities, smart cities and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). For more information and to register for the Wi-SUN and GlobalSign event, visit here.


Why security will be the key to the longevity of the Internet of Things

by Phil Beecher, President, The Wi-SUN Alliance

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It’s just a week before this year’s DistribuTECH Conference and Exhibition kicks off in San Antonio, Texas. Attended by experts in all aspects of the utilities industry, the event attracts thousands of delegates from all over the world looking to network, learn and discuss what’s next in power distribution and transmission.

Wi-SUN will be making its presence felt at the event, so do stop by booth no. 2861 to hear more about the progress we are making with the Field Area Network (FAN) Profile and certification program as we continue to work rigorously towards the introduction of FAN certified products later this year.

We will also be co-hosting a ‘lunch and learn’ event with new identity and security partner GlobalSign on Wednesday January 24, where alongside other security experts, we will explain new methods and technology available for end-to-end wireless security for utilities, smart cities and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).

Nowhere is security more relevant right now than in the Internet of Things – and this year’s conference agenda at DistribuTECH reflects this, with plenty of focus on security, and sessions covering securing SCADA systems, data security and regulatory compliance, mobility and security, and much more. 

Speed, flexibility, cost saving and improved reliability are just some of the many benefits that IoT networks deliver, but with these benefits come increased risk of vulnerabilities to be exploited by hackers.Recent global research from Wi-SUN Alliance highlights that the majority of respondents see security as a barrier to IoT adoption. For this reason any organization embarking on an IoT project must take time to understand their requirements and ensure a robust security strategy is central to any network deployment.

Careful consideration should be given to each of the following five areas:

  1. Threat assessment – security should be integrated across all products and solutions to gain a better understanding of the threat landscape to thwart attacks and improve their ability to detect security breaches and reduce damage.
  2. Certificate-based authentication
    All devices should include certificate-based authentication, which is similar to a biometric passport and verifies that devices have not been tampered with or reprogrammed.
  3. The risk to critical infrastructure applications such as distribution automation and traffic management means that organizations must shoulder the responsibility for developing a strategy to manage risk.
  4. Standards based interoperability
    Creating a standardized ecosystem where devices and developers can communicate and work together incorporating robust security should be at the heart of development and design.
  5. Education
    Organizations must understand the risk that connected devices present and strengthen their defences accordingly. They must also implement policies and restrictions and educate both employees and consumers as to how they can protect themselves.

A connected world may be just around the corner, but the security risk it poses is a very real one. Organizations must start off on the right foot and make security central to their IoT strategy in order to realise the long-term benefits that IoT offers at minimal risk.

DistribuTECH takes place on January 23-25 2018 at the Henry B Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio, Texas. The Wi-SUN Alliance will be on booth no. 2861. 

For more information and to register for the Wi-SUN and GlobalSign lunch and learn at 10.30am on Weds January 24, visit here.

Four Essential Facts about Wi-SUN; IoT’s Most Proven Network Technology

by Marina Donovan, Vice President Marketing, Silver Spring Networks and Chair of Wi-SUN Alliance Marketing Committee

Wi SUN essential facts

The Internet of Things (IoT) and its adoption continues to evolve at a rapid pace with Gartner forecasting that endpoints of the IoT will grow at a 32.9% CAGR from 2015 through 2020 reaching an installed base of 20.4 billion units.  There is no doubt that IoT, dubbed the fourth industrial revolution, will make people, organizations and processes smarter, faster and more efficient than ever before.  Fundamental to the growth and adoption of industrial IoT is the connectivity behind it. Understanding the advantages of these technologies is critical to maximizing the value of your IoT initiative.

Wi-SUN is the most widely deployed IoT network technology in the world – Who knew?

Today there is no single communications technology which can satisfy all applications, but it is the Wi-SUN Alliance’s belief that Wi-SUN is the leading technology in large-scale outdoor networking. Top analyst firms agree with this sentiment. With an estimated 85M+ RF mesh-based endpoints awarded worldwide, according to Navigant Research and Wi-SUN member companies, Wi-SUN is the most widely deployed IoT technology in the world.  This clearly surpasses the hype of other competing IoT technologies.

Rethink Technology research provides further support for Wi-SUN’s momentum, estimating that companies in the Wi-SUN ecosystem are set to enjoy continued growth at 20% CAGR, as mesh network technology begins to reach into new verticals and different business models are developed/implemented.

Wi-SUN is the most experienced IoT technology

The performance of Wi-SUN-based mesh networks has been proven for many years in an array of challenging and remote environments across the globe. Tens of millions of reliably connected endpoints demonstrate that a Wi-SUN-based IoT mesh network can achieve the ubiquity and scalability demanded by IoT customers.

So why is this?  Wi-SUN wireless networking technology is based on open standards, IEEE 802.15.4g.  Its mesh coverage, self-healing communication, reliable performance level, remote firmware upgradability make it a very compelling choice. 

Wi-SUN is ideal for a variety of industrial IoT applications – not just smart metering

While it is the major utilities that have recognized the importance of interoperable standards-based wireless communication networks and have chosen Wi-SUN technology for their advanced metering and smart grid networks, there are countless other sectors who can benefit from their experience and expertise with more than 50 million plus nodes deployed over the past decade.  

Similar to smart grid applications, smart cities and industrial IoT applications require advanced engineering with wireless outdoor networking and Wi-SUN Alliance Field Area Networks deliver multi-vendor interoperable solutions to a broad variety of applications including street lighting, parking systems and traffic management.  Municipalities can install products from different suppliers confident that they will seamlessly interoperate. For example, Oklahoma Gas & Electric is using Wi-SUN technology to network some 250,000 streetlights whilst cities including Bristol, Copenhagen, Halifax, Glasgow, London and Paris have also used the network in smart streetlight projects and it is their platform of choice as they continue expand their smart city infrastructure.

Wi-SUN is the most secure IoT technology
Security is a core concern for any network as compromised devices can be used to mount attacks on other networks, result in costly technology replacements or, even worse, disrupt essential services or public safety as would be the case for critical IoT networks. Wi-SUN-based networks offer the most robust security capabilities surpassing other networks in each of the following areas: authentication chain of trust, key exchange and distribution, key generation and storage, data transmission and network access control.

In summary, Wi-SUN is one of the strongest and most proven network technologies for organizations looking to implement a strong and robust IoT strategy. The Internet of Things is here. It’s evolving fast and organizations need to make strategic choices with the technology they invest in to ensure that it will stand the test of time for what could be years or even decades.

Musings from European Utility Week – Wi-SUN arrives in Europe

by Phil Beecher, President, The Wi-SUN Alliance

panel 1It’s been a busy couple of weeks but I’ve finally found the time to jot my musings down from European Utility Week (EUW) in Amsterdam. This is Europe’s premier event for the Utility Industry and the ideal place to find out what’s happening right now in the energy industry.

Wi-SUN Alliance has a well-established presence across the Americas and Asia-Pacific region and this year we have been investing time and energy into growing our presence in Europe: our efforts certainly paid dividends at this event. There was a large amount of interest at the Wi-SUN booth and we were constantly busy.

The event attracts 12,000 smart utility experts from across the energy industry and many visited the booth where we held useful conversations with a number of European Utility Companies, Telecom Service Providers as well as research houses Navigant and Berg Insights and several members of the press.  In addition, Wi-SUN Alliance had a strong presence with 24 member companies also exhibiting.

EUW’s major theme of digitalisation carried through and I was lucky enough to participate in a live panel discussion entitled ‘From Smart Cities to Digital Urban Platforms’ in which we were tasked with the challenge of answering what is the biggest barrier to creating low-carbon cities? My fellow panellists included Eric Woods from Navigant Research, Serge de Gheldere, co-founder and lead at Futureproofed, and Klimaatzaak, Bram Sieben of Liander and the USEF Foundation, Marc Delandre, G3-PLC Alliance and Eric L Helguen from EMBIX Smart Building Alliance. It proved an interesting and lively debate.

Another highlight of the event was the opportunity to sign a liaison agreement with the DLMS User Association.  The Wi-SUN Field Area Network is an ideal communications transport layer for DLMS/COSEM and we look forward to a fruitful collaboration.

So, it’s safe to say that it was a full and fruitful three days at EUW and the resounding message was that Wi-SUN has well and truly arrived in Europe’s smart utility space. We will be back next year for sure.


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Open standards paves the way for Smart Utilities

Rachel Eyres, Sales Director, Europe, Silver Spring Networks

The way that energy is produced and consumed has changed dramatically in recent years. An increase in renewable energy generation such as solar power and wind has made for a far more dynamic but unpredictable grid control environment. Consumers are now producing energy using solar panels on their houses, and there is expected to be a surge over the coming years in new technologies such as battery storage and electric vehicles, which will place an unprecedented strain on power networks. These networks now need to make the transition from centralised, one-way systems to dynamic, actively managed ones with power flowing in many directions. Yet typically energy distributors have little visibility of their networks beyond a certain voltage, making active network management more difficult.

Energy consumption and production isn’t the only thing that’s changing – due to the ever-decreasing cost of sensors and silicon, and improvements in communications technologies, utilities across the globe are now entering a bold new frontier that we know as the Internet of Things (IOT), which is helping them to achieve huge value from their critical infrastructure by delivering two-way visibility and management from the control centre to the grid edge. The opportunities to make the grid smarter than ever before for consumers and providers alike are boundless.

Smart grid networks are helping smart utilities to gain tighter control over their assets and workforce and many of them are driving far greater grid reliability by using solutions that help to identify fault locations, isolation, service restoration as well as eliminating thousands of outages. For example, in 2016 Storm Matthew hit category 4 status in Florida and affected the Florida Power and Light Company’s entire territory, but due to its investments in smart grid technology and hardened feeders 118,000 customer outages were avoided and flood monitors prevented the loss of a major substation. Customer restorations after this large-scale event were also achieved within 2 days of the storm’s passing for over 99% of customers, compared with 2 weeks or more for previous large storms in the territory prior to the smart grid investments made by the company.

There are many diverse applications of industrial IOT technologies such as those delivered by Silver Spring Networks, a promoter member of the Wi-SUN Alliance.  Industry-wide collaboration is essential to the growth of the smart utilities marketplace which is far too complex to rely on just one organisation. Fundamental to this is the use of an open standards-based architecture such as Wi-SUN which allows seamless and system-wide connectivity and interoperability so that organisations can select the solutions that work best in their network.

Silver Spring Networks has one of the most widely adopted platforms in the world to connect what we call the Internet of Important Things™, and is already proving the value of this networking platform by working with utilities right across the globe to deliver secure and reliable solutions for more than 26.7 million critical monitoring and control devices.

There is no doubt that these are exciting times for IoT innovation. It will be through devices and sensors that are supported by reliable, secure, high performance communications technologies that we can continue to empower global smart utilities to improve service quality and efficiency, provide new management tools for consumers to better manage use of our precious resources, and secure a bright future for the energy industry.

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