Nine Ways IoT (and M2M) Integrations Will Change the Utilities Industry

By Rachel Nitschke | Mar 16, 2016

The utilities industry is set to lead.

The Internet of Things, with its predecessor machine-to-machine communications, are set to make the world a much more connected place in the next five years, with research showing the utilities industry with the highest percentage of investment.

Research from Gartner shows that the utilities industry will lead the way among industry verticals with adoption of the Internet of Things by 2020: utilities, manufacturing and government will take the top three spots and combine for 1.7 billion connected devices. The utilities industry’s adoption of smart meters and the rapid acceleration of cost savings associated with mobile and digital products have become a game-changer for the industry. M2M communications are a key enabler of this revolutionary change for many different operations within the industry.

Here are nine ways mobile, IoT and M2M integrations will change the utilities industry:

  1. Efficiency across the board. Real-time data empowers the field workforce with the information they need to make more accurate decisions in a shorter amount of time. Instead of manually checking logs for operations performance, asset performance information is easily accessible via a real-time operations app on a mobile device, like this similar one from the oil and gas industry.
  2. More controlled and rapid information flow. Successful applications will capitalize on the smaller screen surface for mobile devices and provide digestible chunks of information for efficient interactions that merge seamlessly with the physical experience. Real-time performance and faster communication via push notifications will take the productivity to an even higher increase.
  3. Fewer failures and outages. The IoT’s ability to make a real-time load demand forecast possible means that non-weather related outages will be a thing of the past. Spikes in demand will receive the appropriate supply response. Bonus: analytics on the load demand will create more robust and informed data on demand spikes.
  4. Improved maintenance strategies. The IoT will take asset maintenance a step beyond advance notice that the asset’s performance is faltering and at risk for downtime. IoT technology, along with a detailed data history, can determine the root cause of the failure. Considering maintenance represents between 5 and 15 percent of planned expenditures in the industry, this IoT deployment alone could be revolutionary for the bottom line.
  5. Streamlined compliance processes. In a highly regulated industry like nuclear power generation,  compliance and regulatory processes are designed for safety and rigorousness, rather than efficiency. Mobile and Internet of Things technology, however, can streamline the process by enabling faster communication (push notifications, automated calls), less paperwork (mobilized forms), and automated data capture from IoT-connected machines.
  6. Reliable smart grid. The aging electrical grid’s transformation to the smart grid ushers in automation, big data and new connectivity with customers. By relying on digital technology to connect the customers, operators, machines and data of power generation, electricity becomes more reliable and efficient.
  7. Distributed energy resources. The connectivity and predictive capabilities make the Internet of Things-connected utility better able to incorporate alternative sources of energy, which have traditionally been seen as less reliable. Even a small amount of cloud cover can disrupt solar power generation. If the smart grid was able to incorporate weather and cloud cover predictions, it could easily determine when to pull in solar power as an energy source.
  8. Improving customer engagement. In a 2013 report, Accenture found that small- to medium-sized businesses expected more from their energy providers to help conserve energy. Of the 2,200 businesses surveyed, about 52 percent in non-competitive markets and 37 percent in competitive markets said that they believe that utilities should help them better manage energy costs. Increasing connectivity on customers’ usage through Internet of Things-enabled technology will change the game. Allowing users to compare their energy usage with businesses and homes of comparable size and capacity can also establish a benchmark for the company or family to set goals on their conservation. 
  9. The center of the smart home. As connected appliances and devices in the home proliferate with all of their separate apps for management, a new battlefield for becoming the “central hub” is emerging. Utility companies, hardware providers (Nest, Apple), cable companies, telecommunications providers, and others are all trying to serve consumers as the central dashboard to control all of the connected devices in a home. Utility companies have the advantage; your products are integral to day-to-day life. Provide your consumers with a platform to manage devices and integrate with common IoT household appliances.

The transformation of the utilities industry is already occurring: approximately 36 percent of companies had IoT initiatives in 2015. Where will IoT and M2M take your utilities operation in 2016? Read our latest guide to find out.

 

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