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Using IoT to inform the next evolution of intelligent energy

Jeremy Watson CBE, Director and PI of the PETRAS Hub, looks at how we define and deliver the next generation of intelligent local power grids.


Energy suppliers, the government and consumers have been aware of the benefits of connected devices in utilities for some time now. For the past few years, the British government has been mandating that energy suppliers install smart meters in every home in England, Wales and Scotland.


The end goal is for every home to have a smart meter by 2020, to improve energy data transparency and control for consumers, while providers gather more useful information to improve their services.


The goal is for every home in England, Wales and Scotland to have a smart meter by 2020.


The success of this particular scheme remains open to some very passionate debate, but there’s little room for doubt around the value that internet-connected devices can add. For example, Edinburgh University’s Intelligent Domestic Energy Advice Loop research project has been using IoT to help people save energy in the home.


Smart device data


As the number of smart devices in the average home rises, so too will the amount of useful data to help better manage energy usage. Gartner calculates that IoT devices now outnumber the world’s population. By 2020, the analyst house predicts that there will be over 12 billion connected devices deployed in consumer life, including smart TVs, entertainment systems, boilers, lights and white goods.


So, what could this data be used for? Here at the PETRAS Cybersecurity of the Internet of Things Research Hub, which is made up of a consortium of eleven leading UK universities and run in collaboration with IoTUK, we’ve been exploring just this, amongst other things. In conjunction with the Building Research Establishment’s Innovation Park – a PETRAS User partner – we’ve had real people living their real lives in state-of-the-art smart homes. These houses are fitted with solar panels, battery storage, voice-activated and automated appliances using IoT technology. We’ve been using the data from these to better understand the social and technical aspects of IoT deployment in the home.


The Internet of Energy Things


Part of this has been an exploration of the Internet of Energy Things, whereby connected technology is driving radically new ‘collaborative economy’ business models in energy. Rather than relying on traditional supply models, people will be able to trade energy locally.


Intelligent homes will facilitate efficient use and generation of energy, while distributed ledger (blockchain) technologies will authenticate and track ownership of energy production, consumption, and demand-side response ensuring each unit of energy is securely and transparently accounted for.


This data will be fed back to energy providers so they can gain a deeper understanding of energy demand, use fewer resources, reduce their own CAPEX, and ultimately serve their clients better.


The average homeowner will be able to conserve energy from the grid while producing their own at a cheaper rate – and any surplus can be stored for future use or turned into their own personal energy revenue stream.


The average homeowner will be able to conserve energy from the grid while producing their own at a cheaper rate – and any surplus can be stored for future use or turned into their own personal energy revenue stream.


Lessons learned


What we’ve learned will help lay the groundwork for such systems in the UK – analysing the regulatory, security, engineering and societal requirements for their acceptability. The core lessons are that there is much work that needs to be done to make the smart home user-friendly enough for mass adoption.


IoT standardisation still has a long way to go before it’s fully viable and the business models behind smart devices need to change to be more service focused.


Intelligent energy can only progress if all those involved in the energy provision supply chain – legislators, providers and customers – collaborate to overcome these issues. If they do so, then we’ll be in a far better position to define and deliver intelligent local power grids – the next evolution in energy usage and provision.


Moving to this model will create energy equilibrium by putting smart power into the hands of the people – powered by IoT.


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