An Update on Instrumenting The Energy Industry Using Sensors and Remote Monitoring and Management of the Edge

Today we see an ever-expanding range of devices that connect to the internet, as the internet of things (IoT) becomes more common and prominent in our everyday lives. Many, if not all industries are now turning to the power of IoT technology to optimize their daily processes, leveraging devices that range from ordinary household objects to sophisticated industrial tools. Embedded with sensors, software, and other technologies for the purpose of connecting and exchanging data, in real-time, with other devices and systems over the internet, IoT technology is drastically transforming our lives, adding ease and efficiency when they are used.

The IoT market, while relatively new to the game, is already booming, as according to the latest research, the number of IoT-connected devices globally reached 11.7 billion in 2020, and is expected to increase quickly. While some studies predict the number of devices to steadily increase, reaching 22 billion by 2025, a new Gartner research expects the toilet number of IoT devices to cross over 25 billion by the start of 2022. 

One area where IoT technology can have a massive impact today is in the creation of a “smart grid.” By connecting and controlling IoT embedded devices within the energy grid, they’ll provide the sophisticated connectivity and communications that empower consumers and organizations to make better energy usage decisions, allow cities to save electricity and expense, and enable power authorities to quickly restore power after a blackout.

A smart grid can provide this through private, dedicated networks connecting devices that are distributed to businesses and homes citywide. These devices include smart meters, data concentrators, transformers, and sensors, which contribute to robust and efficient energy management solutions lacking in the existing framework. The IoT smart grid enables two-way communication between connected devices and hardware that sense and responds to user demands. 

The transformation to a digital energy grid using smart technology is a focus of many cities today, including Dallas, Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco, New York City, and more. This comes as no surprise, as there are many benefits associated with an energy grid that comes with the leveraging of IoT devices.

To start, the use of a smart energy grid makes energy use both more efficient, and cleaner at the same time. When it comes to efficiency, smart grid technologies can help to reduce energy consumption through usage and data maintenance. Intelligent lighting through smart city technology will be able to monitor usage across various areas, immediately adapt to settings like rain or fog, adjust output to meet the time of day or traffic conditions, and detect and address lighting outages instantly.

As for the environmental benefits of IoT-enabled energy grids, smart grid technologies are both less demanding on batteries and more carbon efficient. They are designed to reduce the peak load on distribution feeders. The U.S. Department of Energy is already integrating green technology into their IoT smart management for more sustainable solutions. These solutions have the potential to benefit all distribution chains, including optimized wind turbines, solar cells, microgrid technologies, and feeder automation systems.

On top of both smarter and cleaner energy use, IoT-enabled energy grids can also play a huge part in waste and water management. Water treatment and distribution and wastewater processing are significant drains on the energy grid, but IoT applications can provide real-time data to track inventory and reduce theft and loss. Smart energy analytics can gather data on water flow, pressure, and temperature to help consumers track usage habits, while timers and infrastructure modules are able to regulate usage and reduce waste.

Finally, and usually, the most important factor when it comes to the adoption of most new technologies, is the fact that smart energy grids can overall lower energy costs. According to the Department of Energy, today’s electrical system power outages and interruptions cost Americans at least $150 billion each year. This estimate puts the price tag at about $500 per person, and as the world’s population continues to grow, the older grids won’t keep up with the increasing demands.

However, Smart grids are designed to lower long-term costs through smart energy IoT monitoring and source rerouting for fast recovery when a power failure is detected. This could mean savings of up to $600 for households each year, while the total value of savings from switching to a smart energy grid is estimated to be 42 billion just in year one, and 102 billion by year 30.

Overall, as we continue to move forward into an extremely digital age, the need for efficient energy use, and the demand for energy, in general, is only going to grow with more new devices set to hit the market. Through the use of IoT technology combined with the energy grid, we’ll not only be ready to meet the energy demands, but also more resilient in the case of outages, and less hurtful towards our environment.

Matt Vulpis

Matt Vulpis is a fresh out of college writer/journalist, already with a myriad of published articles across a variety of topics and industries. He is very passionate about writing, as well as sports, and television/film. While he enjoys writing articles pertaining to business tech, he wants to one day write a TV show as a head screenwriter. He has a bachelors in journalism with a minor in sports studies from Quinnipiac University.

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