3 Ways the IoT Improves the Utilities Industry
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- Sep 6, 2019 8:54 pm GMT
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The Internet of Things, or IoT, has been around since the 1990s. However, it didn't get much recognition until much later in its existence. Currently, it's implemented in almost every business decision and has become a source for vast amounts of information. Any industry can find useful information in the IoT, and one that's improving a lot from this data is utilities.
The utility industry's main goal is to maintain public infrastructure while providing the service it's there for. Everything from electricity to water to sewage goes under the utility umbrella, but they haven't seen much impact from IoT until recently. Utilities have been a part of civilization as far back as societies have formed, so bringing in the IoT sounds like it could make things more complicated. In actuality, the IoT can streamline things and finally create modern infrastructure for our technological world.
1. Water and Energy Efficiency
Our waste in utilities is staggering. This doesn't mean literal trash, but in the services we need but don't use. We lose a lot of water to pipe leaks, bursts, theft and inaccurate meters. We also waste more than double the amount of energy we use every year. It's such a big problem that many different sectors, from corporations to cities, have teamed up to find a way to combat this issue.
It turns out that the issue can only really be tackled at the distribution level. Without a way to know exactly how much everyone needs, it's hard to distribute what's needed. Thankfully, the IoT has given us enough information that we can accurately measure how much water and electricity is required in different areas. The more efficient use in our utilities can cause a waterfall of surplus throughout other sectors, too, allowing for a better economy all around.
2. Consumption and Conservation
Putting efficient measures in place at the distribution end is wonderful and important, but this does not address the consumer's end. The problems of burst pipes and theft are still very relevant, even with the extra knowledge. However, knowing about the problem is half the battle, especially when it can be fixed. With more help from the IoT, the whole system can become as efficient as possible.
The most important component after the IoT itself is the equipment used to measure our data. Products like smart meters, smart thermostats and other AI-enabled technology that can judge information for itself is integral to getting precise information into the IoT. A smart energy grid helps with the flow of electricity and increases efficiency. There's something to be said for the amount of money it would take in upfront costs to update infrastructure. However, it should be looked at as more of an investment than anything.
3. Find Patterns and Make Predictions
Having the numbers certainly helps, but we don't know the future until things happen. What we do have is information to make a good guess of what may occur on the horizon. Disastrous, sudden events can't really be accounted for except in separate incident planning, but day-to-day operations should be fairly predictable.
Most of the predictions lie in the customers and area the utilities are based in. Consumer behaviors will show in your data, like if they water their lawns regularly or if they have gardens that need extra hydration. The area is just as much a factor, though. Storms, reoccurring natural events like floods and earthquakes, climate models and local weather forecasts can help the utility industry get an idea of what to expect. The only downside is that this is a job that never rests and is constantly changing.
For the IoT to work as intended, it has to be a part of every aspect. There's a lot of potential to be had from the IoT, but not a lot of data can be garnered if there's little information to gain. Implementing sensors and other smart equipment will help immensely to set this up. However, money is always going to be an issue. It's vital, then, for the utility industry to include IoT development and use in its budget
We all have to start somewhere. Even if you start using the IoT with the infrastructure and equipment you currently have, you should see a rise in efficiency and lower waster numbers in no time. This could save money and leave the door open to better equipment in the future, which will result in even more money down the road. The cycle will just keep going to bigger and better things so long as we work smarter instead of harder.
With the IoT, we can turn any sector into a more efficient version of itself and make room for the future. That's what the utility industry needs to focus on.