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June 3, 2022

Highlights

  • Enterprises are turning to cloud and IoT to reimagine the energy value chain. 
  • Cloud and IoT transformation will drive efficiency across smart plants, smart grids, smart cities and smart meters.
  • Cloud, in combination with technologies such as IoT, digital twin, AI and ML, provides a springboard for a quick digital transformation.

Rise of IoT in energy

The energy industry that dates back hundreds of years is getting a makeover.

Powering this transformation are new technologies such as cloud and internet of things (IoT). That the global IoT in power and utilities market is projected to grow at a CAGR of 13.5% from USD 28.6 billion in 2019 to USD 53.8 billion by 2024 is reflective of this change. IoT holds the answer to a host of challenges the industry faces—from rising operating costs and operational inefficiencies to employee safety on remote sites. Not to forget equipment failures from lack of monitoring in hard-to-access operating environments. Or managing customer expectations of smart energy consumption across connected devices at home. Or moving toward net-zero emissions targets.

Why digitalization?

Three Ds—decentralization, decarbonization and digitalization—are the key challenges.

Addressing the third challenge of digitalization is critical for solving the first two and for driving technology innovation, introducing new business models, tapping new energy sources, and optimizing operational efficiencies. That’s not all. Digitalization will bring enhanced customer engagement, new revenue streams, operational efficiency across utility ecosystems (smart plants, smart grids, smart cities and smart meters), preventive asset maintenance and utilization optimization, and regulatory compliance. But how do we get there?

It will require the industry to envision its entire operations from a digital ecosystem perspective. It needs to consider how the remotest data can be captured and analyzed with the objective of providing meaningful insights to users. All this while ensuring controlled access to data and systems, 24*7 monitoring, and governance from a central hub. Which is where a smart energy and utility platform comes in.

I will focus on a holistic approach to building a smart energy and utility platform. Specifically, an AWS-powered IoT platform for utilities, which is secure, scalable, and customer-centric.

Transform with platforms

A cloud-powered IoT platform can be the springboard for utilities’ future growth.

Cloud, coupled with industrial IoT, edge intelligence, data streaming, digital twin, and AI-ML, provides a springboard for a quick transformation. And AWS’ scalability, elastic infrastructure, security, and ability to enable SaaS makes it a robust digital backbone for IoT transformations. Add to it enablers like the ones listed below, and you have the making of an intelligent cloud IoT platform.

  • Refined and accurate ML models. Build, train and deploy ML models using curated data to get deeper insights and make accurate predictions. Carry out functional testing of cloud infrastructure before deployment.
  • Remote monitoring of sensors. Devices installed in plants and at customer locations can be remotely monitored through organized security registers, troubleshooting mechanisms, and remote firmware or software upgrades. Alarm notifications can be used to monitor equipment health, device fleets for failures, changes in operation, and to trigger further actions.
  • Gateway and connectivity. This is required for long-range communications between devices and cloud. Also, address cybersecurity concerns by ensuring data privacy and data and device security with encryption and authentication.
  • Reporting intelligence. For a 360-degree view of critical data, asset metrics, and GIS for smarter decision making, business intelligence (BI) reporting capabilities are a must.

Platform building blocks

What goes into the making of such a platform? Here are some of the key things you should focus on:

  • Collecting industrial data through supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), and from utility data centers with meter, asset and historian data. 
  • Collecting and analyzing data for local events, edge intelligence with local ML inference, and anomaly detection using solutions like AWS IoT Greengrass, and AWS IoT SiteWise Edge (with AI/ML at Edge).
  • Collecting, processing, and monitoring of industrial equipment data on-premises. AWS IoT SiteWise, AWS IoT Core for LoRaWAN, and AWS IoT Device Management can be helpful here.
  • Developing an effective data lake with secure and scalable storage leveraging solutions such as Data Lake with Amazon S3, Amazon Timestream, and Amazon DynamoDB.
  • Building BI and data reporting capabilities by making the most of solutions such as Amazon SageMaker, Amazon QuickSight, and related services.

Transforming with platforms pays

Cloud IoT platforms have led to an impressive 15–40% improvement in operational efficiencies and cost reductions. They support smart meters, which improve customer engagement, and digital twins that ensure safety. Most importantly, they enable utilities to better manage ever-increasing demand on grids. In the not-too-distant future, the combined power of such platforms and quantum computing can help solve complex problems of smart grids and drive better energy management and consumer experience.  

"Digitalization of energy will require the industry to envision its entire operations from a digital ecosystem perspective."

Sameer leads the Global IoT Solutions for TCS’ AWS business unit. With 25 years of experience, he has led and architected strategic customer engagements across industry verticals. His experience spans digital customer engagement with Amazon Connect and related ecosystems, enterprise mobility, digital thread and digital product engineering.

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