Electricity from renewable sources has become cost-competitive with fossil fuels. Technological hurdles remain before renewable energy can replace fossil fuels entirely. The Internet of Things (IoT) can help solve some of them.
Where the Internet is a network of computers, the Internet of Things is a network of “smart” devices, such as:
- cell phones
- sensors on a wind turbine
- electric vehicles
- animals with a microchip
- people with a heart monitor
These devices need only have a unique identifier and the ability to interact with a network without human intervention. Any device with an IP address can send and receive data over a network. So it becomes part of the Internet of Things.
A brief history of the Internet of Things.
In 1999, Kevin Ashton introduced the term “Internet of Things” in a presentation to senior management at Procter & Gamble. At that time, the Internet itself was new to the general public. He wanted them to understand the potential benefits of radio frequency ID.
He didn’t invent the idea of connected devices, however. That idea first appeared sometime in the 1970s.
Programmers at Carnegie Mellon University made the first Internet appliance early in the 1980s. They connected a Coke machine to the web. It let them make sure it wasn’t empty before they walked there.
IoT itself is based on machine-to-machine communication. It requires machines connected to the cloud to collect data without human involvement. It now includes billions of different sensors and other devices.
This huge network enables the collection of data in real time from multiple locations. Using Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition software to process the data, engineers can use it to control equipment and conditions in an “IoT ecosystem.”
The Internet of Things and utilities
Utilities have long used “smart” instrumentation and telemetry on their transmission and distribution networks. It has helped them manage supply and demand.
The electric grid as it now exists responds to demand. When demand increases, energy production must also increase.
If demand exceeds the capacity of baseline generating plants, the utility must start some kind of peaker plant. They are inefficient and expensive to start, operate, and stop.
Instead, the latest IoT technology provides smaller and smarter devices and faster communication. It allows the utilities to monitor more elements of their networks. It provides more data. Better data analysis enables improved customer service. Utilities will deploy more and more sensors for their equipment as part of the smart grid.
Utilities will necessarily own many kinds of IoT devices. They will also benefit from consumers’ apps and gadgets.
Perhaps you already have a smart thermostat. It adjusts the temperature in your house according to a schedule you program into it. It doesn’t heat or cool your home as much when no one is home. But when someone comes home from work (or vacation) the thermostat has already reached the desired temperature.
Utilities can now use IoT technology to integrate solar, wind, and other renewable energy into the grid. Their devices and software can also help consumers reduce their usage of electricity or natural gas. Not only that, they can use electric vehicles for a two-way flow of electricity. That is, they can take electricity from your car’s battery and pay you for it under certain conditions.
The data from smart devices may have a greater impact on energy conservation than the devices themselves. For one thing, it can help companies bill more accurately. For another, it can help schedule preventive maintenance.
The Internet of Things and you
IoT technology enables demand to adjust to supply. In other words, appliances can operate or not depending on the supply and cost of electricity.
Imagine your home appliances letting you know what electricity costs at the moment. You can decide whether to use them now or later. By not adding to demand for electricity at peak periods, “smart” devices reduce the utilities’ need for peaker plants.
For that matter, your stuff fails at the most inconvenient times. . Wouldn’t you rather know before then that you need to have it repaired or replaced? Imagine your machines telling you when they need to be repaired or adjusted.
Benefits and potential drawbacks of the Internet of Things
Many IoT applications already exist for consumers, business, and industry. They help people and organizations save time and money, monitor their processes, and make better decisions.
All those commercials with someone using their cell phone to make sure the garage door is closed? That’s one example of how consumers can use IoT.
Some monitors or wearable devices can help doctors interact with patients. Others can help the legal system track the movements of convicts out of prison.
The Internet of Things can potentially also help you regulate water use by sensing soil moisture. Maybe a sensor can tell you that you don’t need to water the lawn right now, or don’t need to water it as long.
Alas, no one has yet invented anything criminals and terrorists can’t exploit. IoT raises lots of privacy and security issues . Quite apart from hackers, we need to be concerned with companies selling big data or using it to freeze sick people out of the insurance market.
The Internet of Things is here to stay. It can only play an increasing role in modern society. Especially as a part of transforming generation and consumption of electricity. We just need to be diligent in order to minimize its potential harm.
Internet of Things (IoT) / Margaret Rouse, TechTarget. June 2018.
The Internet of Things is an enormous opportunity for renewable energy / Neil Strother, Recharge. December 12, 2016
Photo license statements:
Remote home control. Source unknown.
Smart meter. Public domain from Wikimedia Commons
Kearny peaker plant. Public domain from Wikimedia Commons
Programmable thermostat. Some rights reserved by Advanced Telemetry
Electric cars recharging. Public domain from Wikimedia Commons