IOT: A brave new world of power generation and distribution

In the brave new world of power generation and distribution, a new technology ally exists, writes Internet of Things Cluster Mining and Energy Resources (IoT MER) executive manager, Steven Travers.

The Internet of Things is a buzz phrase and technology trend that many people are now aware of, but how does a technology capable of automating your fridge, help in managing our every increasingly complex power system?

The energy sector can look to automation and the increased use of data and data analytics to drive productivity, efficiency and safety, through placing focus upon distributed sensing, data fusion, optimisation and control – Internet of Things.

There are opportunities for the development and deployment of this technology ecosystem across the entire energy sector and supply chain.

There is the blanket efficiency gain that can be applied in buckets to almost every industry; greater optimisation, safer operations, and improved maintenance create a worthwhile enterprise, however a key feature of the Internet of Things is unlocking complexity – our modern power ecosystem is complexity personified.

The changing mix in generation is introducing complexity into the system on several levels, from intermittent supply to additional componentry and hardware previously not required.

Add in population growth, growing public awareness, and changing energy use patterns, and the waters quickly muddy.

As an ecosystem, what the Internet of Things does incredibly well is gather information (from all sources, agnostic of structure and format), collates and synthesises, then creates a smart outcome (and further presents data for reuse or future application).

Examples of smart outcomes are predictive analytics, automation, decision-making and machine learning.

Grid and distribution management is an area that could benefit significantly from the real-time analysis of supply and demand, particularly interfaced with weather and conditional information.

Although it sounds familiar and similar, this is not what is currently occurring, or at least not to the current level of technological capability.

An important point to grasp around the Internet of Things is that many of the technologies and concepts are not strictly new.

But what they are is vastly improved, fed by an exponentially greater volume of data, compatible with adjacent systems and data feeds, capable of learning, and supported by data science-driven predictive analytics products evolving at an unprecedented rate.

With load shedding in focus recently, there is a new generation of decision-making and decision support systems absorbing real-time conditions feeds, and making on-the-spot automated decisions, with the best available data.

Billions of lines of data can be visualised and rendered instantly, and even working with publically available data updated on a minutes-level basis, modern data analytics would significantly enhance the current decision making structure.

Again, to many this sounds like it is not strictly new, however contemporary systems provide a step-change to current capability.

This is a trend we will see more of, and that will come into sharper focus. As the mix of generation coming into the grid moves increasingly towards the intermittent side, greater levels of active management will be required.

The level of insight provided by deep learning and cognitive computing will provide this step-change in the efficiency of managing the system.

Optimising systems performance, enhancing productivity, enabling automation, and improving the safety and effectiveness of individuals, are the staples of Internet of Things outputs.

They jive extremely well with the desired operating case of the power generation and distribution sector, which should place continually greater focus upon data-driven insights and smart capabilities.

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