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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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How a standardized ecosystem will help drive widespread IoT growth

By Phil Beecher, Wi-SUN AllianceTM

According to analyst firm Gartner, IoT endpoints will grow 32.9 percent up until 2020 by which time the installed base will have reached 20.4 billion units. With a market experiencing this kind of growth it’s imperative that any organisation thinking about implementing an IoT initiative gives careful consideration to their chosen network wireless technology.  This decision will ultimately define performance, longevity, reliability, interoperability and scalability for many years to come.

Interoperability will be a key component to drive the growth of IoT and creating a standardised ecosystem where devices can communicate and developers can work together.  As a result this will almost certainly lead to even more product options and features supported by stronger pricing competition.

Smart City applications are still in their infancy, and there will be many new developments and applications in the near future. Like the internet, IoT networks should be built on a set of standard protocols and structured to provide the flexibility to support this growing range of applications, as well as provide highly resilient connectivity. IoT networks additionally need to be fault tolerant while providing the capacity to deal with very large numbers of devices.

In order to support multi-service networks, it makes sense for a local  authority or municipality to use the same communications infrastructure to control a wide variety of applications, such as street lighting, traffic management and smart parking, as well as applications as yet unknown.  A single communications infrastructure not only avoids the replication of network equipment but enables new and smart functionality where different applications can interact and share data.

Among the new and diverse applications are an increasing number which require low latency and localised processing. This need for distributed control, together with low latency and the need for resilient, fault tolerant networks demonstrate the value of peer to peer mesh networks.  An overview of the benefits of mesh networks can be found here.  Wi-SUN has also produced a white paper comparing three wireless technologies which are targeting outdoor IoT networks.

One of the biggest benefits of being a network owner or operator in a standardised IoT ecosystem is that there is no need to be locked into a single vendor. Solutions built on open standards, supported by a certification program for interoperability, provide the network operator with a choice of vendors, competitive pricing and the confidence of a continuity of supply.

Very soon IoT will be transforming towns and cities near you with the goal of enhancing the lives of both consumers and organisations alike. There are many unknowns but one thing is certain: those cities which implement their IoT initiatives on an ecosystem using open standards are far more likely to succeed and grow than those who don’t.


What is the Right LPWAN Technology for Smart Cities?

By Phil Beecher, Wi-SUN Alliance™  

When it comes to Smart Cities, the Internet of Things (IoT) is a true game changer in terms of the opportunity it presents to unlock operational efficiency and improve quality of life. While there is still some way to go before we see widespread adoption of Smart City technology, leading cities like Chicago, Copenhagen and Paris are already demonstrating the benefits.

For a city to remain competitive in today’s global marketplace, then essential citizen services must be reliable, timely and efficient. Choosing the right communication network technology is a foundational step towards enabling a range of Industrial IoT and Smart City solutions. A recent report from Riot Research on LPWAN Revenue predicted that by 2020 LPWAN protocols would be the most successful standard in terms of device connections for IoT applications.

A physical obstruction can cause a local outage that will prevent these systems from operating. Consequently, the inflexibility of this solution architecture makes star-based technologies a poor choice for Smart City networks.

Conversely, Wi-SUN networks are based on a mesh architecture that has been designed with flexibility and adaptability in mind and to maintain highly reliable connectivity even in the most challenging environments.

Within a mesh network, any device can connect seamlessly with its peers and can create multiple redundant connection paths across the network. Thus, mesh networks actually become more reliable and resilient as they grow. If there happens to be an outage, an endpoint will automatically re-route network traffic through an alternate connection path. Similarly if the landscape changes, then the mesh will adapt to ensure continuous connectivity.

The ability to communicate peer-to-peer enables mesh devices to collaborate at the edge  This flexible and distributed solution architecture makes mesh solutions ideally suited to enable advanced Smart City applications.

Wi-SUN currently leads the way in connected lighting installations in Smart Cities. While smart lighting deployments can deliver immediate operational savings, they also establish ubiquitous connectivity, making it relatively easy and cost-effective to add new applications such as smart parking and environmental monitoring. A further example of this is traffic management whereby the flow of traffic can be controlled to reduce congestion, a particularly useful tool in Smart City environments.

Finally, Wi-SUN uses open standards which avoids the need to be locked into one vendor and provides yet another advantage for its versatility and use in Smart City applications but that’s a topic for another day.


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Need a reliable & secure energy supply? Follow Singapore’s lead to interoperability.

By Wi-SUN Alliance™

Government agencies worldwide are mandating improved efficiency for energy production and delivery.  Today, many forward-thinking users are moving away from closed, proprietary protocols to embrace open international standards. Wi-SUN®, the most widely deployed large scale IoT technology in the world, has developed a robust protocol based on open global standards that can deliver high performing, large scale, outdoor, urban networks suitable for a range of demanding applications including electric, water and gas metering.  Wi-SUN-based networks are operating successfully on five continents.

For example, the Singapore Energy Market Authority (SEMA) selected an IoT networking solution based on the Wi-SUN Field Area Networking (FAN) profile for the expansion of its Smart Meter Program. Interoperability with the existing Singapore Power meter deployment and the Wi-SUN FAN profile were required components for SEMA, a statutory board under Singapore’s Ministry of Trade and Industry.  According to SEMA, adhering to the Wi-SUN FAN profile based on open standards will help ensure interoperability not only today, but years from now.

The Wi-SUN FAN profile offers interoperable, multi-vendor networks to enterprise, service providers and municipalities needing a superior, open standards-based, secure networking solution for applications ranging from advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) and distribution automation, to infrastructure management, intelligent transportation systems and smart street lighting.

To learn more about the benefits utilities and municipalities worldwide are seeing by implementing Wi-SUN FAN, click  here.

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