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A Maturing ‘Power IoT’ Market

By Chen Cailin General Director, Energy Solutions, Enterprise Business Group, Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd.

‘Power Internet of Things (IoT)’ is a networked system that uses new Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and sensor innovations to sense, characterize, connect, and manage the status of grid infrastructures — including individual customer and environmental effects. Power IoT integrates information-sensing devices and communications networks to form physical entities capable of self-identification, proactive sensing, and intelligent processing. Through collaboration and interaction between intelligent endpoints, related objects are being built to provide real-time and near real-time control-related information. The result is a smarter, more reliable, and more easily maintained electricity production and consumption system.

Power IoT Ecosystem Advances

The rapid rise in distributed energy sources has accelerated a need for the electric power industry to integrate ICT into its technical systems. The future markets for power consumption will be stimulated by converging the roles of electricity producers and consumers. Undoubtedly, Power IoT will contribute to all aspects of modernizing smart grids. These advances will update the entire ecosystem by merging the metering systems for electricity, water, gas, air conditioning, and heat. Transmission loads will be automatically monitored and adjusted based on line status and demand. Smart power distribution and consumption applications will permit connections with new energy sources and fundamentally alter the business of selling electricity.

Terminals: More Availability of Products and Solutions

Grid companies worldwide are exploring how Power IoT applications will become part of their plans to construct converged smart grids and communications. The State Grid Corporation of China has carried out such experiments. In one example, a smart community program has conducted a trial that uses a ‘smart socket + wireless networking’ method for managing the power consumption of household appliances.

Another example uses real-time monitoring via self-organizing wireless network technology in high voltage substations to deactivate faulty equipment due to changes in environmental conditions. Further, broadband carrier chips developed by Huawei’s HiSilicon semiconductor subsidiary are specially designed to handle the complicated environmental conditions for transmitting data over high-voltage power circuits.

Gateways: Converged Access Becomes the Norm

Rapid progress in ICT, sensor, and control innovations has raised the requirements for front-end signal processing. This change is the result of improvements in the integration between sensors and controllers, and has improved the compatibility across multiple data transmission methods. The improved compatibility illustrates the continuing industry-wide effort to combine information processing with intelligent feedback. In this context, the communications gateways that support multiple Radio Access Technologies (RATs) have become the best choice for processing front-end signals, and the further convergence of related technologies is the leading trend for future development.

Smart, converged gateways are understood to be the platforms for various sectors of the electricity generation industry to consolidate the communications interfaces and access protocols for delivering end-to-end systems and services. Multi-RAT gateways support custom applications over a diverse area, including security monitoring, production control, user interaction, and asset management. Augmented reality technologies that assist production control, remote inspection, and maintenance are becoming popular for comprehensive monitoring of transmission lines and substation environments. Converged gateways support user interactions through Advanced Metering Infrastructures (AMIs). Improved asset management tools use converged gateways for full lifecycle equipment management and warehouse supervision activities. Thanks to these enhancements, converged gateways will become a primary feature of Power IoT.

Communications: No Unified Standards on the Horizon — Yet

Several communications technologies are available for the IoT, including IPv6 + MESH, Long Range (LoRa), and Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT). Faced with an evolving range of technologies, decision makers must choose the most suitable resources for their Power IoT installations. Although vendors are stepping up their R&D efforts and delivering products on an increasingly large scale, no technology is capable of fulfilling all industry requirements. The NB-IoT technologies that utilize licensed frequencies versus the LoRa products that operate over non-licensed frequencies is one such example of the strength of the Power IoT network-layer market. Both NB-IoT and LoRa solutions are expected to co-exist.

Applications: The Trend of New ICT

Power companies are integrating cloud computing into their power systems to ensure reliability, visualize scheduling and maintenance, and improve internal networks. By combining cloud computing with Big Data analytics on smart grids, power companies are optimizing the processes of data collection, storage, and transmission of power system status during power generation, distribution, and consumption. ICT platforms are critical to fulfilling business goals that rely on intelligent data collection, automated production, and information-enabled management.

For example, power companies are using the intelligent cloud to divide the huge computing loads of their power systems into smaller blocks. Multiple servers are processing large quantities of information in the shortest possible time. By using cloud computing and Big Data analytics, power companies have insight into vast data collections sourced in real time from intelligent terminals throughout their grid monitoring systems. Big Data analytics are combined with power system models to diagnose, optimize, and predict the operating status of transmission grids to ensure security reliability, and the most economical grid operations.

ICT advances are empowering electricity distribution companies to explore the full market potential of collected Big Data. There are estimates that the global market for Big Data-based electricity management systems will reach USD 3.8 billion by 2020. As a result, companies engaged in electricity data collection, management, and analytics expect unprecedented development opportunities.

Accelerating Technology Standardization for Power IoT

The process of defining international standards for Power IoT technology is gaining momentum. The NB-IoT standards established in June 2016 have created a foundation for large-scale commercial deployments. This means that 2017 is anticipated to be ‘Year One’ for commercial NB-IoT networks. Additionally, Huawei’s broadband data over power line technology was officially certified as IEEE P1901.1 compliant in September 2016.

Power IoT standardization is receiving particular attention from countries and organizations that wish to see greater cooperation across the IoT industry as a whole. These efforts are promoting the interweaving of R&D and the definition of standards throughout the Power IoT industry by focusing on the improved utilization of resources while providing advantages to members of the industry chain. The net effect is acceleration in the overall growth of the Power IoT ecosystem.

Advancing the ICT Industry with Power IoT

Smart grids are a powerful driver for the further development of the IoT industry. The positive results of innovation are having an impact on the long-term planning goals in the areas of industrial manufacturing, production operations, and the details of everyday life.

Looking ahead, disruptive cloud computing and Big Data technologies based on converged communications gateways with edge computing will see widespread use.

For medium- and high-voltage power systems, the digitalization of substations, transmission lines, and switching networks will continue to generate vast quantities of data that call for the deployment of more reliable industrial communications technologies that will be based on Ethernet over optical and wireless circuits.

As ICT, sensor, and energy storage expansion continues to shape the future of Power IoT, industry standardization is creating a solid foundation for the healthy development of the entire ecosystem. Going forward, Huawei will maintain cooperation with its partners and customers to promote innovations in Power IoT with advances that add value throughout the industry.

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