Energy Management: The Internet of Things Changes Everything
The emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT) almost certainly is the most important single development in the long evolution of energy management.
The premise of energy management is controlling elements at a fundamental and granular level. The deeper and tighter the control the better. In a world that is saturated in IoT devices, that control will be quite deep. The billions – and eventually trillions – of sensors and other devices that will create a mesh that will facilitate energy management services and procedures that would have been impossible otherwise.
To paraphrase a current presidential contender, the IoT is going to be huge. Yesterday, Gartner released research forecasting 6.4 billion “connected things” in 2016, which is a 30 percent jump from this year. The number will reach 20.8 billion by 2020. Next year, 5.5 million new IoT connections will be made daily.
The IBM Center for Applied Insights compiled other numbers, all of which are similarly impressive: There could be 925 million smart meters, 2.54 million smart lights and 1.53 billion utility-managed connected devices by 2020 (the sources of the figures are, respectively, BI Intelligence, Gartner and Ericsson). Smart grid spending in China alone could total $20 billion by the end of this year (McKinsey & Co.).
No Shortage of Applications
That’s a lot of IoT. And the uses will be many. Some examples illustrate how deeply the IoT will impact energy issues. “IoT can help an organization reduce energy waste in many ways,” wrote Gene Wang, the CEO and co-founder of People Power, a software company that enables smartphone-controlled management of connected devices. “First, by dynamically monitoring overall consumption, an organization can find out when it is spending too much or consuming at abnormally high rates. Equipment or lights can be turned off. HVAC can be optimized for energy savings while maintaining comfort. Consumption can sometimes be scheduled when energy rates are lower. And workers can be incentivized using Energy Challenges to lower their energy usage and win prizes or awards or gain status. All of these activities can be enabled using IoT sensors.”
Organizations understand the natural synergies between the IoT and energy-related issues. GE has made to related announcements during the past three months that illustrate where the smart money thinks energy efficiency and the IoT are headed. In September, the company introduced Predix. It is a cloud-based analytics fabric that will process and make useful the massive amount of data produced by the IoT. Last month, GE created Current, which will harness that horsepower specifically for energy-related initiatives. The two will work together. This is how GE positions the partnership: